Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.
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Jon Casson was quite clear that Arielle Gold won the FIS half-pipe World Championship event Sunday thanks to her own gifts, perhaps none more important in difficult weather conditions than with a tenacious spirit and a refusal to give up on the day.
“She put in the time. She put in the hard work, and this is something for her to be proud of,” he said.
Still, as the director of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club snowboarding division, he couldn’t hide what the win meant to him and to the program he’s helped guide as its chief for the past decade.
This, he said, was big. And while it’s definitely a product of Gold’s unique skills, it’s also a proud mark for the Club and the result of years of planning, training and hoping by coaches.
The event came a decade after Johnny Spillane broke through to win a Nordic combined World Championship, and that wasn’t something that was lost on Casson.
“We wanted to go and do the same thing those guys were doing. We wanted to establish the same thing,” he said.
He said it was special in part because Gold represents true, homegrown talent, a born and bred Steamboat Springs snowboarding champion.
It also was notable that the championship came from a woman.
“When I took over as program director, we really wanted to get more girls involved,” he said. “Now we have this wave of girls and a really strong team. We have great female coaches in the program, and they’ve really made it happen.”
There was a bit of debate about whether or not this represented the pinnacle of Steamboat snowboarding. There have been podium finishes at Grand Prix events, and we’ve been besieged in recent seasons by great results from Maddy Schaffrick, Matt Ladley, Benji Farrow and Taylor Gold.
Schaffrick, Ladley and Farrow all skipped World Championships to prepare this week for the Winter X-Games, which kick off Thursday in Aspen, and their participation alone is a great moment for Steamboat, let alone the fact that they all could place high in the half-pipe.
No matter where Arielle Gold’s accomplishment ranks, though, there’s no doubt this season is one of the best the program has ever enjoyed and a harbinger of things to come, as all of those athletes are very young and very talented.
“When you see results like this, you don’t see all that hard work behind the scenes,” Casson said.
He was talking about the hours Gold invested en route to the championship, but the same words can be applied to Casson, the other coaches in the program and the program itself. Sunday’s world championship was about Gold, but the snowboarding program that’s now so well represented on the world’s biggest stages deserves a turn in the spotlight, as well.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com