Golds nearing Olympic spots after another huge night

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— It just keeps getting better for Steamboat’s snowboarding siblings, Taylor and Arielle Gold.

Saturday night, they dominated when it mattered the most and now their outstanding results have them on the precipice of locking down spots on the U.S. Olympic snowboarding team.

Taylor Gold won Saturday’s snowboard half-pipe finals, a grand prix event at Copper Mountain. The event was the second Olympic qualifying event of the season, and it was his second podium, following up a third-place showing a week ago at the Dew Tour in Breckenridge.

Arielle Gold, meanwhile, flew to second place, her first podium of the season after she was fourth overall and second among Olympic-eligible Americans at Breck.

“I’m someone who isn’t typically rendered speechless,” Ken Gold, Taylor and Arielle’s father, said on Saturday, trying to describe his family’s elation. “Tonight, I’ve been tripping over words. This has been almost beyond description. We’re so blessed and grateful. Both Taylor and Arielle have been working so incredibly hard.”

For Taylor, the triumph comes after years of slowly building. He wasn’t a favorite to lock down an Olympic spot when the season began, but he seemed to enjoy that fact, all the while working on a run that has helped set him apart early this season.

The key, he said, has been his ability to land the double-cork Michalchuk, a trick he focused intently on throughout the summer. The move is named about Michael Michalchuk, an early big-trick riders in what was then just a developing sport.

For Taylor, it’s been the difference.

“He’s been visualizing this run for more than a year, before he even knew how to do the tricks he did tonight,” Ken Gold said. “He worked all summer long, learning every skill, and tonight was the first night he put them all together.

“It was magical.”

Saturday he landed a score of 90.25. Greg Bretz, the champ a week ago in Breckenridge, was second at 87.75 and Ben Ferguson was third at 87.0. Former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club rider Benji Farrow finished fifth with 81.0.

Both Gold and Farrow barely snuck into the 16-man finals, as did Steamboat’s Matt Ladley, all three among the last four riders qualified.

Ladley fell on his first run Saturday, registering a score of 21.5. He didn’t take a second run.

For Arielle Gold, Saturday brought about another huge performance.

Qualified second behind Olympic gold medalist Kelly Clark, she went on to finish second, outshone only by a jaw-dropping score of 98.0 from Clark, who officially wrapped up her Olympic spot with the win.

Arielle wasn’t far behind, scoring 91.25, and Gretchen Bleiler was third at 86.0.

For consideration on the Olympic team, athletes will be ranked based on their top two performances from the five qualifying events. Both the Golds now have the equivalent of two second-place finishes as their best two with three more events to come. Arielle Gold currently is second, behind Clark. Taylor Gold also is second, behind Bretz (a first and a second), though Shaun White will likely also factor in at the top of the heap. The two-time Olympic gold medalist had a second-place finish last week, then missed this week’s event with an injured ankle.

It would take very, very strong riding from multiple members of the field for either Gold to miss out on the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi, Russia.

“They worked so hard this whole summer with the goal in their minds not even being the Olympics,” Ken Gold said. “They just were trying to do their best in every single contest and if they did that, no matter the results were, they’d be satisfied. The fact that they’re getting recognized like this for their hard work is beyond any of our expectations and we feel very blessed and happy for them.”

The next Grand Prix event and the third Olympic qualifier is set for Jan. 8 to 12 and was relocated to Breckenridge from Northstar, Calif.

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