Ski director who helped hire Charest as coach takes stand as defence witness

Former ski coach Bertrand Charest delivered results and had a vision to bring Quebec skiers to the national and international stage, the man who helped hire him told his sex assault trial Tuesday.

Charest was tough but he was structured, disciplined and he ``knew where he was going,'' said Regis Nivoix, former director of a regional ski association that hired Charest for the 1992-93 season.

"The goal was to get to the national and international level,'' Nivoix told the court about the plan in the early '90s to find someone to train a group of elite, young ski students.

Quebec had lost the headquarters of the country's national ski association and the provincial ski industry wanted to regain some of its pride, Nivoix explained.

"He was the only one during the interviews who told us how to get there,'' he said. "We wanted to be known in Canada.''

Charest, now 51, is on trial on 57 charges, including sexual assault and breach of trust, in relation to 12 alleged victims between the ages of 12 and 19 during the '90s.

They claim Charest abused them when he was their coach, before and during his stint with Alpine Canada's women's development team between 1996 and '98.

Nivoix testified he never received complaints or heard rumours about sex allegations against the former coach.

His own daughter lived for two years at a ski school run by Charest in Mont-Tremblant, Que., in the mid-90s.

Nivoix said he often visited the school, which was set up in a large home and housed roughly 10 students at the time.

"The ambience was warm,'' he said. "My daughter never mentioned anything was going on.''

One of the students at that school had testified earlier in the trial that Charest had pulled her out of the home on several occasions and brought her to his house for sex.

By 1996, Nivoix said Charest's students were topping the podiums.

"We had an excellent team,'' he said. "We were the envy of everyone.''

Later that year several students moved to the national team as did Charest.

By 1998, he was fired after allegations surfaced he had allegedly been abusing young women.

"I was shocked when I heard,'' Nivoix said. ``I was sick to my stomach.''

Nivoix is the defence's second witness and he will be cross-examined by the Crown on Tuesday afternoon.