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Dream Job: Olympic Sports Manager

Downhill All the Way

When brave Lycra-clad skiers leap into the air at breathtaking speeds at the XIX Winter Games in Salt Lake City in February 2002, Alan will feel the thrill of victory. As the technical expert in the ski jumping and Nordic combined events for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, Alan worked with architects and engineers to oversee the construction of "K-120," the newest and greatest ski jump in the world. At 343 vertical feet, K-120 is the equivalent to 50 stories high and will propel skiers into a 62 mile-per-hour free-fall.

In addition to ensuring that K-120 is just right for jumping, Alan hopes to provide the best possible training advantage to the U.S. team as it goes for gold. "In this job," he says, "you get to work with real pros at the top of their field, and that's an awful lot of fun."

Alan also sources, prices, and researches the best equipment to install on the jump, including all the gizmos that measure speed and distance and the grooming devices manufactured to his specifications to ensure that the hill is in perfect condition for every spectacular jump.

In addition to being a technical expert, an Olympic sports manager is surrogate parent, psychologist, travel agent, tutor, best friend, and worst enemy to a group of amazingly talented and motivated teenagers. Think vast quantities of cortisone rub. Think trying to nurture the best-toned athletes in the world - egos and all. It isn't always minty-fresh moments.

"If you put on an event of a certain caliber, there are specific things you have to know: what kind of hotels athletes and coaches can and can't stay in, what the prize money has to be, what kind of day money goes to each of the individuals, and so on," he says. "You have to have been around the block and have a fair amount of experience with planning and budgeting."

Traveling to other competition sites is a big part of the job. Alan acts as tour guide, bringing key people from his organizing committee to sites in Europe and Asia. There, he introduces them to people doing similar jobs for World Cup or World Championship events.

With the endless excursions, teams get used to sleeping in airports on top of a mountain of ski bags, equipment, and luggage. One time Alan was whisked off the streets of a small Italian village by the secret police, who had noticed that he was being followed. And then there was the bomb threat in the Swedish hotel. The whole team was evacuated by the Secret Service and hidden in a disco, where they were treated to free drinks and 24/7 armed guards.

Alan has been a competitive skier since he was a teenager, and a coach for 18 years. As a coach, Alan has been driven by the idea of his team winning a medal in ski jumping or Nordic combined for the United States - a feat accomplished only once, in 1938, by Norwegian immigrant Anders Haugen. "You never forget those actual Olympic moments," says Alan, "And if your guys win, you're over the moon." In 2002, regardless of who goes home with the gold, Alan will be a winner.

So if you aim for the highest peaks of performance and you don't mind seeing your breath while you work, think of a career as a winter sports coach...and dream on!