2 Steamboat athletes head to Winter Youth Olympic Games

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— Arielle Gold and Lesley Wilson each will face uncertainty at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria.

The 10-day competition begins Friday and features all 15 sports at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

The uncertainty is legitimate for the pair of rising Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes.

Gold, who qualified in women’s snowboard half-pipe, has been training in Breckenridge in what might be the raddest half-pipe in the world. In Innsbruck, who knows what she will encounter.

“She’s going hoping to win but not expecting to win,” Winter Sports Club snowboarding coach Ashley Berger said. “We don’t know what the field is like or what the pipe is going to be like. But she is riding the best she has ever ridden.”

With Wilson, who made the team as a ski cross athlete, the concerns are more intense. Because of a lack of snow in the area, Wilson has yet to compete in a ski cross event this year. Instead, she has been racing Alpine.

“I think the expectations are a great learning experience,” Winter Sports Club ski cross coach Tom Davis said. “It’s a great reward for the success in her sport. The goal is to open her eyes to the greater world of competition out there.”

The two Steamboat athletes were among the 57 Americans chosen for the team. Athletes were named to the team based on their results in elite competitions during the past winter. Those qualifying events included the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix, the Revolution Tour and the World Junior Championships.

Gold will compete Saturday and Sunday, and Wilson will compete Jan. 19 and 20.

“She is still very young in the sport,” Davis said about Wilson. “To get this experience at her age, she earned it. She’s on the trajectory to find a long, successful career.”

Gold should have a good chance at finishing high. She added several new tricks this winter, including a frontside 900 and a frontside 720 to a cab 720.

“Arielle is arguably one of the best 15-year-olds in the world,” Berger said. “This is a confidence booster. She is getting better all the time.”

The Winter Youth Olympic Games is an international athletic event that will be held every four years, similar to the Winter Olympics. Gold and Wilson will be among more than 1,000 competitors from 80 countries.

Each girl was en route to Innsbruck on Wednesday.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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