Mats Boehnke always had aspirations of being an Olympic-class skier.
Though that never materialized despite a successful amateur and collegiate career, Boehnke is an Olympian.
The 29-year-old Carson High graduate was selected over the summer to be an assistant coach for Team USA, and he will be in South Korea for the upcoming Winter Olympics that start in mid-February.
“It is a great opportunity,” said Boehnke in a recent phone conversation while he was in Europe with Team USA. “I had gone to New Zealand to volunteer my time with the team. In late August, the assistant coach got sick and they gave me the job.”
Boehnke, under the guidance of former Swedish national coach Magnus Anderssen, is working with the technical ski group, the slalom and giant slalom.
The group he’s working with includes Resi Steigler, who is ranked 17th in the world, Patricia Mangin and Nina O’Brien.
According to Boehnke, potential gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin has her own team of coaches.
“We are working with some of the younger girls,” Boehnke said. “I’ve spent all winter working with them. It’s getting very exciting. Team selections are on the 22nd. It’s very competitive, and there is a positive vibe on the (World Cup) tour right now.
“I’m really lucky to be working with Magnus. We get along really well. He worked with the Swedish national team 5 or 6 years ago when they were really good.”
Among his duties is setting up training runs, and filming and timing training runs.
“I try to put the girls into a good mindset and giving them confidence going into races,” Boehnke said. “I try to keep it positive. I’m friends with the girls, but I don’t cross the line. They know what we expect of them. They know we work hard for them. There is so much involved.
“I love being on the hill and hope to be here as long as I can. I’m under contract until April. After the Olympics end there is some World Cup events and the U.S. Nationals in Sun Valley. As long as I don’t screw up, I don’t know why they wouldn’t keep me.”
Boehnke admits it’s been an exciting winter. Besides New Zealand, he’s been to Belgium, Canada, Austria (twice), France, Italy and Switzerland. No doubt the Passport pages have filled up at an alarming rate as the team has criss-crossed Europe in preparation for South Korea.
And, he has gotten a chance to rub elbows with the likes of Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn to name a few. The slalom and downhill athletes usually travel together.
“They (Olympic skiers) are down to earth and extremely motivated,” Boehnke said. “The work that Vonn puts in during the off-season is amazing. She really works hard and his motivated to be the best. They all are.”
Not bad for a kid who just a few years ago came back to the area and was coaching pre-teens at Diamond Peak.
After Diamond Peak, he got a job coaching/teaching at Mammoth with Chip White.
“Chip was the head slalom coach for the U.S., and he had a lot of good connections,” Boehnke said. “I got my foot in the door that way.”
When you look at the big picture, it’s no surprise Boehnke ended up where he is.
With a former college ski coach for a father (Bill) and a collegiate ski racer for a mother (Becki), there was no way Mats wasn’t going to be involved in skiing.
“It (skiing) was his passion growing up,” said Bill Boehnke, Mats’ dad. “Between that and soccer. It’s amazing. Only a few in the U.S. that get to coach at that level.”
The elder Boehnke said the family went to Vermont for a World Cup race, but won’t attend the Olympics in South Korea.
Boehnke, a 2007 Carson High graduate, won the state combined title his freshman season with the Senators, winning the giant slalom and finishing third in the slalom.
“He was very technical,” said former Carson coach Jack Rhinehardt. “He was a great kid.”
Unfortunately, Boehnke left the program after his freshman year. He concentrated on regional and divisional racing which led to his attending College of Idaho where he majored in political economy.