He wasn’t called the “human dart” for his speed down the slopes, but for crashing a hang glider into a mountain near Banff. Yet the same quest for adventure, commitment, and generous spirit has Trail resident Grant Rutherglen hauling in the accolades.
Forty years of coaching a demanding sport like alpine ski racing is not very common, but coupled with the unprecedented success of delivering nearly a dozen racers to the Canadian National Ski Team is a feat that deserves recognition.
Trail’s Grant Rutherglen was inducted into the Canadian Ski Coaches Federation Hall of Fame on Saturday in Banff, Alta., just after receiving news that his name will also be etched on Greater Trail’s Home of Champions monument in May, 2013.
“It’s great, I’m really proud of the accomplishment and all the years,” Rutherglen told the Trail Times. “The biggest thing is that it’s just one big family.”
Rutherglen is a product of the most successful ski program in North America: the Red Mountain Racers. Over 30 National Team members have trained at Red Mountain, and Rutherglen coached 10 of them. While the success of the athletes is a big part of the 61-year-old’s legacy, it was much more than that.
“In the coaching part of it, the highlight would be those athletes that went on to the Canadian Ski Team, but in the Canadian Ski Federation, course conducting and examining or as a facilitator, the (highlight) was the camaraderie,” said Rutherglen.
Kerrin Lee-Gartner, the 1992 Olympic gold medalist, had Rutherglen as a coach as a young teen and attributes the Rossland Secondary School grad with her early development.
“I often think the coaches that instruct the athlete when they are younger and more impressionable make the difference later down the road,” Lee-Gartner said.
At the 1985 Ski Championships in Bormio, Italy, the Canadian ski team featured five athletes from the Red Mountain Racers that were coached by Rutherglen.
“A small club and such a small community was able to produce so many great athletes,” said Lee-Gartner. “To me, that says a lot about the coach that was in place at the time.”
Rossland’s Brian Fry, a promising Canadian national team racer before a shattered leg ended his career at 19, was coached by Rutherglen and said he credits his coach with much of his success.
“Before Grant, I had done nothing,” Fry said. “He helped me pull through and get it. Grant really made me believe that I could actually do it. Even when I thought I couldn’t and didn’t ski very well at all, he had confidence in my ability.”
It was Fry who convinced Rutherglen to return to Red 10-years ago to help out with the Nancy Greene and the Red Mountain Racers. Since then, Rutherglen has also coached Brian’s son Steven and guided his journey to the pinnacle of the sport as he tries for the national team this season.
Another one of Rutherglen’s products and former national team member, Chris McIver recalls the tireless support and energy the coach infused into off-mountain training.
“When we used to do dry land, he was right in there with us doing all the exercises day after day,” McIver said. “Even sometimes when he wasn’t on the payroll, he was helping us train and he would stay in touch with us in the summer and make sure we had a good program.”
Sand hill training with gates, carrying teammates up the Cominco parking lot stairs and other rigorous exercise was something Rutherglen is very well-known.
Yet, Rutherglen’s impact went much further than just ski racing. It is an aspect that Rutherglen takes particular pride in, not just developing athletes but well rounded and successful individuals.
“It was something I took more seriously than any other aspects of coaching, was teaching life skills too,” added Rutherglen.
Lee-Gartner also stressed that his contributions far exceeded the success he and his racers enjoyed, but rather how his love of skiing was passed down to each and every athlete he trained.
“He touched a lot of people that he coached in his time, and still does today. It isn’t just about going on to win, it really is fundamentally teaching the love of the sport. There are not so many people who stick around coaching their whole life. That says a lot about him, he really loves it. There is a lot of passion there.”
Rutherglen plans to retire soon, but he’ll probably have a tough time staying away from coaching.
As one of the greatest coaches in Canadian ski history, it is fitting his legacy be firmly, and deservedly entrenched in both the Canadian Ski Coaches Hall of Fame and the Home of Champions.