Steamboat Springs' Arielle Gold qualifies for Grand Prix finals

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— Just one week ago, Steamboat Springs snowboarder Arielle Gold had the scariest crash of her life.

She was riding the halfpipe at Copper Mountain when she hit the deck of the pipe after a trick. The impact bounced her back into the pipe in backflip fashion. She proceeded to land, with her face and shoulder taking the brunt of the punishment.

“That was the worst crash that I’ve ever had,” said Gold, 16.

But Thursday, after time out with a minor concussion and an AC joint sprain in her shoulder, Gold showed the crash was behind her.

Fighting off soreness, Gold won the women’s first heat of the Copper Mountain Grand Prix event, one of the premier stops in snowboarding. Her first-run score of 91.6 was the second highest score to Kelly Clark’s 94.6.

“My run felt really clean,” Gold said. “I was happy that I landed the run that I did.”

Gold’s run consisted of an air, a frontside 900, a backside 540, a frontside 720, a cab 720 and a frontside 540.

It was the frontside 900 where Gold fell the week before. But Thursday — admitting the crash was still fresh in her mind — Gold stomped her run.

The run continues Gold’s rise in the sport.

Last year she won two silver medals at the inaugural Youth Olympics in Austria. She followed that by winning the halfpipe at the FIS Junior World Championships and also had a pair of fourth-place finishes at the U.S. Open and U.S. Grand Prix.

When finals hit Saturday — featuring the top eight women — Gold will find extra motivation in those fourth-place finishes.

“Falling short of the podium or short of finals, I think of going home and think I didn’t make it,” she said. “It’s a pretty big bummer to do that. That’s always been good motivation.”

Teammate Maddie Schaffrick missed the finals Thursday, finishing in 14th. Kirby Kelly was 37th.

Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club snowboarder Benji Farrow was the lone local male to qualify for the finals. Farrow qualified second in the third heat with a second-run score of 86.6. The top four from each of the four heats qualified for Saturday’s final.

Matt Ladley just missed making the finals, finishing in 18th. Nik Baden was 37th and Taylor Gold was 60th.

The halfpipe finals begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

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

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