Hall of Famer
Andrzej Kozbial was the program director of Canada’s national Alpine ski team from 1974 to 1988. In this role he was a key factor in the success of the Crazy Canucks and their female counterparts. As program director “Andrzej provided good leadership for the program”, said Ken Read, a member of the Crazy Canuck team that won a host of international competitions. “He was there for a long time…that provided a lot of stability, which certainly was a key element for the success of the team, and that was the period of time that was the most successful in Canadian skiing.”
Mr. Kozbial immigrated to Canada from Poland in 1969, first settling in Mont Tremblant, QC as a ski instructor. By 1972 he was coaching young southern Ontario skiers in Collingwood and two years later moved to Ottawa to be the program director of the national program. In that role he was responsible for the whole alpine ski team’s program, from scheduling to attracting official suppliers, a longtime colleague and friend, Ed Champagne remembered.
Among those Mr. Kozbial coached at Collingwood were Steve Podborski and Laurie Graham, who both went on to international ski success. Ms. Graham remembers him as an enthusiastic but strict coach. As a junior skier training at Collingwood, she said Mr. Kozbial could be a tough taskmaster “I know his dryland sessions could be pretty vigorous for a 13- and 14-year old,” she recalled, but added that the extra effort made her a better skier.
Mr. Podborski agreed: “He definitely was a very physical man (in his approach to training), but he pushed people to be better than they were. As program director, he was responsible for taking us from a group that had very few results…to a it of a powerhouse. For example, as program director Mr. Kozbial insisted that we had the best equipment possible so that when we got in the starting gate we weren’t going to be a half-second behind.”
Mr. Ken Read said: “He was very approachable, very willing to listen. I know there were a number of occasions where as athletes we would approach him with a problem and it always wasn’t resolved to our satisfaction, but you were always left with the feeling that your opinion was sought and listened to. In amateur sport, that’s a pretty unique quality…and in that respect you could say he was ahead of his
time. It’s become very fashionable now in the 1990s to listen to athletes, but he was doing it back in the 70s.”
“Another of his advanced policies was promoting the women’s ski team”, Mr. Read said. “It was about the only time we had both the men and women firing on all cylinders, and in the ’79, ’80, ’81’, ’82 period – that’s when Canada had its highest ranking, because we had both the men and women performing so well”.
Mr. Kozbial left the national team in 1989 to operate two clothing stores, Renee Hauer Sweater outlet and Escape Clothing store that he opened in Ottawa with his wife, Barbara.
In his nomination for induction into the Canadian Ski Hall of fame, Dee Read, Member, Steering Committee said,”…Andrzej was a devoted, dedicated and hardworking Alpine Program Director of the CSA (Canadian Ski Association) from 1977-1988. He led the Alpine Program throughout the period of the Crazy Canucks. This was an era of huge expansion in Canada’s Alpine Program. He was responsible for many aspects of that expansion which led to Canada being accepted and respected on the Men’s World Cup scene for the first time by all the participating nations and the European journalists and press…He fittingly deserves as place within the Honour Role of Canadian skiing.”
Source: From an article written for The Ottawa Citizen by Dave Mullington, on June 3, 1999
Please Note: The ski information gathered here is compiled from a number of sources; it may not be inclusive of all accomplishments.
Copyright © 2021, Canadian Ski Museum. For Personal/Educational use only. All Rights Reserved.
Andrzej Kozbial (center). CSHFM Collection.