U.S. Ski & Snowboard has named Vladimir Lebedev as Head Aerials Coach for the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team. Lebedev will take over the position from Emily Cook, who has served as interim head coach since Todd Ossian left the team in May after a nine-year tenure.
“We are excited to announce Vladimir as our head aerials coach for the U.S. Ski Team,” said Jeremy Forester, director of freestyle for U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “Vlad is widely respected within the aerials community and brings a history of coaching success with him to this team. His passion for the sport and clear vision sets a high standard for his athletes. I look forward to working with him in his new position.”
Born and raised in Uzbekistan, Lebedev was introduced to the sport of aerials skiing when he was five by his uncle who was president of the Uzbekistan Ski Association. Lebedev worked his way through the ranks and eventually moved to Moscow to compete for the Russian National Ski Team for 10 years, from 2000 - 2010. He earned a bronze medal at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, the crowning achievement of his professional aerials skiing career. In 2011, Lebedev made the tough decision to move from competing to coaching, after sustaining a second injury to his right knee.
Lebedev coached the Russian development team for four years, until the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. From 2014 - 2017, Lebedev served as a World Cup coach. His athletes earned an impressive 12 medals at the Junior World Championships during his tenure, four of which were gold. He found success with Kristina Spiridoniva, who finished third in the Aerials Grand Prix in 2018, as well as with Ilya Burov, who earned a bronze medal at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang.
Prior to being named head aerials coach for U.S. Ski & Snowboard, Lebedev served as a World Cup coach for the U.S. Moguls Team. Because of his expertise in aerial maneuvers, Lebedev was instrumental in helping many U.S. athletes improve their air executions on the moguls field.
Eric Bergoust will remain on staff as World Cup Coach along with continuing his efforts in Development. He looks forward to working with Lebedev in his new position. “I’m excited to continue as World Cup Aerial Coach, working with Vladimir,” said Bergoust. “Vlad and I have been friends for over fifteen years and we work well together because we are both committed to doing whatever it takes to help our team succeed.”
Lebedev enjoys coaching because of the challenge. “All the athletes on the team are different. It’s up to me and my staff to find specific goals for each of them. We have a lot of conversations in the gym, on the ramps, on snow, etc, to come up with a strategy that works for each person. Coaching, especially in a discipline like aerials, is not like a regular nine to five job. Every day is a new and different day. I have to be in tune with each athlete, with how they’re feeling, etc, to make adjustments.”
One of Lebedev’s biggest goals moving into the 2019-2020 competition season is to create a cohesive team culture. With the end of the Ossian era, Lebedev knows it is important to get the athletes and staff all on the same page so that there is continuity and progression moving forward.
Beyond the immediate, Lebedev has his sights set high for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing which will include the new Team Aerials event. “I am working on developing specific athlete plans through the 2022 Olympics. I break these down from yearly, to seasonal, to monthly, to daily goals. A lot of it is general because we are constantly making changes depending on how the day-to-day goes.”
Lebedev transitioned from the moguls to the aerials coaching staff this spring and the aerials athletes are already responding positively to him as a leader for their team. “After knowing Vlad for over a decade and working with him for the past couple months in Park City, it is obvious to me and my teammates that he is going to lead this team in a phenomenal fashion,” reflected three-time Olympian and 2017 Aerials World Champion Ashley Caldwell (Asburn, Va.). “The experience he brings from being an athlete, a coach for Russia, and a coach for the U.S. Moguls team, coupled with his enthusiasm and character are going to make for an unstoppable leader and head coach.”