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Former Soccer Player Plays Role with U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association; Snowboard Cross Starts Monday

Tschana Breslin with Olympic snowboarder Graham Watanabe.

By Steven Shaff, NAU Media Relations

PARK CITY, Utah – Former Lumberjack soccer player Tschana Breslin was always known for her intense playing style and passion. Now she is passing on that determination by helping some of the best in the United States in preparation for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics held Feb. 12-28.

Breslin, who graduated from NAU with a degree in exercise science, is part of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Sports Science team, serving her fourth year overall as a strength and conditioning coach and physiologist. She works specifically with the freestyle aerials and snowboard cross teams.

“My job is unbelievable,” said Breslin, who played for current NAU soccer coach Andre Luciano from 2002-05. “I come to work every day to work with some of the most elite athletes in the world in skiing and snowboarding. Every day is different which makes my job really fun and the athletes are really cool people.”

Breslin worked with 30 athletes in preparation for Vancouver and the 2010 competition schedule, including 17 snowboard cross athletes and 13 aerialists. The USA team includes four men and women in snowboard cross and four men and three women in aerials.

“Tschana's involvement has branched beyond that of 'trainer',” said Olympic snowboarder Graham Watanabe. “Not only does she write programs for our sport, but specifically caters those programs to each individual. She's taken the time to get to know the athletes well enough to be able to weigh in on dietary needs and extra-curricular activities that can influence our individual training regimens.”

Breslin’s connection to the USSA was aided by former NAU assistant strength and conditioning coach Ernie Rimer, who works with the women’s alpine team. Rimer served on the NAU staff from 2004-06 and worked with Breslin and her teammates.

The Las Vegas, native from Bishop Gorman High School played in 73 games in her four-year Lumberjack career and made 58 starts as a midfielder. She was an All-Big Sky second-team selection in 2003 and earned honorable mention honors in both 2004 and 2005. She also was a three-time Golden Eagle Scholar-Athlete recipient.

“Tschana was the prototypical, blue-collar, hard-working kid you wanted on the field all the time,” said Luciano. “She was a captain’s captain, a player everyone respected on and off the field. I wish I could clone her. She was a player that worked extremely hard for everything she ever got.”

Upon completing her career, she interned in the NAU weight room with current assistant strength and conditioning coach Cody Hodgeson under the direction of Josh Morzelewski, who now works at BYU, and assistant coach Rimer.

“She backs up everything she says,” said Luciano. “To have someone who can demonstrate the workout and who took strength and conditioning very seriously has a big impact. She was a model for our other student-athletes. I think it translates to the current athletes she is coaching right now. They have a tremendous amount of respect for her.”

Breslin has many memories of her time in Flagstaff but misses the team atmosphere the most and recalls her sophomore team that was led by seniors Karla Rogers, Emily Homan and Amanda Butterfield.

“I don’t necessarily look back and remember all the wins and losses,” said Breslin. “We did have a really good year. But I remember all the travel we did together and the funny things that happened on the road. The team is what I miss the most, being with those girls every day and being part of that atmosphere.”

Breslin has found a new team with the USSA, which is based in Park City, Utah. They use a science-led approach to athlete preparation. She works daily with a dedicated team of physiologists, dieticians, strength coaches and medical staff that “all work as a team to better performance every day.”

An accomplished boarder herself, Breslin taps into her own training experiences from both on the snow and the pitch.

“It helps a lot,” said Breslin. “I know the things I put them through I have either been through myself or gotten ideas for their training from the things I went though. I can relate when they have an injury and how they are feeling emotionally or if they are emotional about not doing well at a competition. I know how they feel and they understand I am not just a coach telling them what to do. I have been in a similar situation.”

Breslin’s work with the athletes has her athletes primed for a successful Olympic Games.

“As an athlete, I think Tschana truly understands that each person is different, and has different weaknesses/strengths to consider when training them,” said Watanabe. “She also understands the importance of rest/detriment of overtraining. Having snowboarded herself, she also has a unique perspective and respect for what we're trying to accomplish, which can prove hugely beneficial in her evaluation of our needs as athletes. We athletes also have more mutual respect and confidence in her as a trainer.”

Watanabe, who is competing in his second Olympic Games, is among a group of medal contenders for the U.S. team. Breslin also trained Seth Wescott, who is the defending gold medalist, Nick Baumgartner and Nate Holland. The four athletes qualified for the U.S. men’s snowboard cross (also SBX, Boardercross, Boarder-X or BX) team.

The women’s SBX team will be led by Lindsey Jacobellis, who finished second in Torino and recently took the competition at the 2009 Winter X Games earning another gold medal in snowboard cross. Callan Chythlook-Sifsof and Faye Gulini join her on the women’s team.

“I can’t wait,” said Breslin, who will travel with the team to Vancouver. “It is going to be an awesome experience. It is going to be so fun to watch the athletes do their thing and hopefully bring home the medals and celebrate the sport and competition.”

Breslin will coordinate the athletes’ workouts and recovery through the Games, monitoring them each morning and insuring they have everything and are set for competition. The snowboard cross competition for the men will take place on Feb. 15 with the women competing on Feb. 16. The qualifying competition for the aerials starts on Feb. 20, making for a memorable week for Breslin.

“I get to be outside and do what I love,” said Breslin. “If you can do that for your job, you can not ask for anything more. Being out there with them and helping them succeed is the best when they do get to that podium and they say thank you for all the work you helped them with. It means more than anything else. It is pretty fantastic.”