Meet the Hillend coach who helped secure a historic bronze for Team GB

Hamish McKnight. Picture: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Hamish McKnight. Picture: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
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HE trained on the dry slopes of Hillend as a youngster.

And now Team GB’s ski and snowboarding head coach Hamish McKnight has spoken of his pride after a member of his squad became the first Briton ever to win an Olympic skiing medal.

(L-R) Coach Hamish McKnight talks with snowboarder Dom Harington of Team GB. Picture; Getty

(L-R) Coach Hamish McKnight talks with snowboarder Dom Harington of Team GB. Picture; Getty

The 35-year-old, from Stenhouse, leads a team of nine elite athletes as Park and Pipe head coach, which incorporates snowboard slopestyle, snowboard big air, ski slopestyle and halfpipe.

And McKnight is celebrating after Izzy Atkin claimed an historic freestyle skiing slopestyle bronze in Pyeongchang on Saturday.

The coach, a former Stewart’s Melville pupil, said: “We are of course all immensely proud of Izzy winning Bronze in slopestyle. Also James Woods placing fourth! They have both worked so hard to get to this level and it was great to see them manage to produce the goods on the day in such a strong contest.”

The coach took up snowboarding when he was 15, quickly learning the basics through his background as a skateboarder. After earning some competitive results at the Junior World Championships and ranking as British Champion a few times, he enjoyed travelling and snowboarding around the world including Japan, Australia and Iran.

It was in 2007 when Hamish got the call asking if he would coach Team GB, a role he loves.

He said: “Identifying and working with a highly motivated group of athletes, towards goals that to most people seem virtually unachievable coming from the UK is a real chance for me to make the best of my skill as a coach. It really is a huge privilege for me to take on this role and the tasks within it.

“Our sport progresses technically very fast and we work extremely hard all year round, not only to keep up but also to break new ground ourselves which is remarkable as we are not one of the smallest nations without the gift of ample world class training facilities.”

A controversial moment during the women’s slopestyle final as strong winds meant all of the riders fell on at least one run including GB’s Aimee Fuller, who finished in 17th place.

Hamish said: “The conditions were the most difficult there’s ever been. In all honesty the competition should have been postponed.”

Hamish says the atmosphere among Team GB is good with a medal haul of four so far. He also expressed his gratitude to those supporters who have travelled to South Korea or are at home screaming at their TV.

He added: “Most of the athletes have family and friends who have flown over to support, and yes there do seem to be a fair few Brits around in the crowds.

“Too often overlooked is the price each of our families pay to support us and to pick up in our absence while we travel to train and compete.

“Our schedule is more gruelling than most as we have no high level training facilities in the UK and must travel almost constantly.”

Hamish has high hopes for another Scot who he hopes is the future of British snowboarding.

“Since the retirement of Ben Kilner we have not had another Scottish snowboarder make it to the very top level. Thankfully that’s about to change and I’m pleased to have been working closely with Matt McCormick, 19, from Bearsden. Remember that name!”

kieran.murray@jpress.co.uk