Alpine skiing coach Capelli eyes new contract with China after medal haul at Beijing 2022
By Yao Youming, Ma Bangjie and Liu Yangtao

YANQING, Beijing, March 12 (Xinhua) -- Dario Capelli, the head coach of the Chinese para Alpine skiing national team, is going to leave China for his home after helping to bring the hosts three golds so far at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.

"We are waiting [for] tomorrow, and then my contract will finish. I don't know what will happen in the future," the coach told Xinhua on Saturday.

When asked whether he would continue his coach career in China if was given a new contract, the Italian said, "Yes, why not? I know I was not only a ski coach, but also like a father. I love this country very much."

Capelli started skiing when he was five and received an Italian national coaching level-2 certification at 23. He started coaching Para skiers three years later and helped his athletes win multiple gold medals at the Winter Paralympic Games at Turin 2006 and PyeongChang 2018.

Before the PyeongChang Winter Paralympics, Capelli came across the Chinese Para Alpine skiing team in Europe and was surprised to find the team was training on slopes for beginners on their first day.

After PyeongChang, Capelli received invitation from China to coach the team and made up his mind to take over the head coach position after talking to his family.

Capelli understood his major task was to lead the team to a satisfying performance on home snow at Beijing 2022, and he worked it out in his own way.

"I tried to invent some new system, because I realized that if I followed the normal process of teaching, we may not be ready to face the challenges in 2022, so I jumped in. I realized the new system with my experiences and I am sure it's working," said Capelli.

"The first step is to work with the quantity, so they need to practice a lot and don't lose too much time on the technical (things)."

"They need to ski because they need to have confidence, especially for the sitting. Confidence with the mono ski, confidence with the speed, confidence with the slope, and then (we can) start to divide, not too much quantity, but more quality."

When talking about the core idea of his system, the legendary coach pointed out that the system's goal was to teach the athletes to ski without skis.

"With this COVID-19 pandemic, many times we didn't ski. We couldn't have a chance to skip on the real snow. I have found this system with some exercises to continue to have the same feeling that the athletes have on the slope, but without the skis," he said, adding that he made special machines to simulate the same feeling as on the ski and the slope with the help of local universities.

Capelli's system worked.

China has pocketed 18 medals in para Alpine skiing with one matchday remaining on the schedule, namely three gold, eight silver and seven bronze medals.

If the full mark is 100, then Capelli said that he would like to give his players 1,000 points.

"The Chinese mentality is when they want something, they want the top, they want the best, and they invest a lot of money. That is very important."

"We started from zero, but we started to work like real professional athletes just to arrive here. I am with my athletes for 11 months, 24 hours per day. All the time together, so I become to be like a father, like a friend, not only a coach. I started to be a mental coach, a physical therapist," said the 51-year-old.

Before leaving China, Capelli received a special gift from Zhang Wenjing - a Paralympic mascot Shuey Rhon Rhon with golden embroidery. Grabbing the mascot only for the medalists during the interview, Capelli gave China some suggestions for future improvements.

"China needs to improve a bit more about the coaches because they have now a good example in the athletes, but they need to improve also the coaches."

"They need coaches to work with more passion because, with athletes with disabilities, you need to have passion to work. If you don't have passion, don't start to work with para athletes," he said. 

(Zhang Rui and Zhang Xiao also contributed to the story)