As the chief of sport performance for the United States Olympic Committee, Alan Ashley is responsible for providing targeted resources and support to U.S. National Governing Bodies, athletes and coaches in pursuit of sustained competitive excellence. Prior to joining the USOC in 2010, Ashley served 16 seasons with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. In his 13th trip to the Olympic Games, he is serving as the chef de mission for the U.S. Olympic Team for the first time.
Describe your role at the Sochi Games. How is it different from past Games?
In the past, the chef de mission has primarily been a ceremonial position. We changed it this year to a more functional position, which freed up one of our accreditations for a coach or technician. My role in Sochi primarily consists of troubleshooting and acting as a communication point between various parts of our operations to ensure that our efforts are coordinated. But above all else, I’m responsible for making sure that our athletes, coaches and NGBs understand that we’re behind them and want them to succeed.
Now that we’re halfway through the Games, what have you most enjoyed about your role as chef de mission?
I have really enjoyed the opportunity to interact with all of the teams and to be able to support the NGBs and their athletes in a manner that is consistent with our work from the past four years. When we made the switch in the role of chef de mission, we did so with the idea that it would further help to integrate our performance focus and operations focus while on the ground at the Games.
What do you think about the new Olympic disciplines?
It’s fun to see the new disciplines because I think they represent the continued evolution of sport. What’s interesting is that these new disciplines are really consistent with where the culture is. I love that, because it gives us a chance to interact with a whole new group of people and get them involved in the Olympic Movement.
How have U.S. athletes responded to the athlete villages and the venues?
The spirit and focus of our team has been fantastic. I have heard a lot of positive feedback about the venues and the village. People genuinely are excited about the quality of our surroundings and the quality of the competitions.
We’ve already witnessed some historic moments here in Sochi. What have been some of your favorite “game-changing” moments?
The new disciplines and events have been a great addition to the Games. Whether it was the team event in figure skating, luge or the new disciplines in ski and snowboard, I have been inspired and encouraged by the great performance of our athletes and the excitement and enjoyment of the fans for these events.
What has been the key to Team USA’s success in the new Olympic disciplines, specifically slopestyle skiing and snowboarding?
I think these disciplines speak to a new generation of men and women who are approaching ski and snowboard in an entirely different way athletically. They also have brought a different spirit and camaraderie to the village which has really been a great addition to Team USA. I have a lot of people comment on how nice it is to have new teammates that are so positive, compassionate and excited about competition.
What has been the biggest surprise about the Games, thus far?
The sweep of the men’s podium in men’s ski slopestyle has been the biggest surprise so far. I knew we had quality athletes and there was a great opportunity in this event, but it is always a complete surprise and inspiration when a nation has such quality that there can be this kind of success. The runs that Joss (Christensen), Gus (Kenworthy) and Nicholas (Goepper) completed were spectacular and it was so fun to see the crowd so inspired.
With the Olympic stage comes a great sense of both national pride and camaraderie. How do you think American athletes have represented their country?
Team USA athletes continue to show that they love to compete, and they do so with a sense of sportsmanship that really demonstrates the Olympic values — excellence, friendship and respect. Every day, they demonstrate both extraordinary efforts on the field of play and a true commitment to the team. It is this strength of character that makes our athletes role models for our country.