Steamboat Springs If they can do it here, they can do it there.
That’s the truth Steamboat Springs’ sibling snowboarders Taylor Gold and Arielle Gold are confronting as they prepare for the biggest competitions of their lives, the snowboarding half-pipe events at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The United States has dominated the half-pipe at the four Olympics the event has been in, and as the Golds qualified as two of the top Americans, they now have every chance in the world to bring home medals from their first Olympics.
Taylor Gold, 20, punched his ticket to his first Olympic Games by going head to head with some of the biggest names in one of the Winter Olympics’ biggest sports. He qualified for the trip to Russia alongside two-time Olympic gold medalist and living snowboard legend Shaun White, 2010 Olympian Greg Bretz and longtime snowboarding veteran Danny Davis.
In Sochi, White again has to be the favorite, but the chance for multiple American medals is very real.
His top competition may come from Yuri Podladchikov, a Swiss snowboarder, but White’s countrymen won’t be far behind. Bretz distinguished himself in the Olympic qualification process, winning the first of the five events used to decide the U.S. team. In fact, he’s the only rider to have beaten White in one of the events.
Davis, meanwhile, was clutch when he had to be, winning the fourth qualifier and showing well enough in the others to earn a trip to his first Olympics.
Gold, however, is the surprise of the group, surging from the U.S. snowboarding rookie team to claim one of the treasured Olympic spots.
He did it with a huge run he perfected during the summer featuring a trick few others can reproduce, the double Michalchuk. But he proved as consistent as he was surprising, earning one first-, a second- and two third-place finishes in the five qualifying events.
The U.S. women’s team is stacked, already featuring three gold medals and a silver and a bronze, fully 25 percent of the medals that have ever been awarded in women’s half-pipe. Kelly Clark, 30, is in line for her third gold after winning it first in 2002, then again in 2010. She showed this year that she hasn’t lost a thing, dominating the women’s qualification process with three wins in five competitions.
Her top competition — outside the U.S. team, anyway — may come from Australian Torah Bright, who beat Clark head-to-head in December’s Dew Tour event in Breckenridge.
Hannah Teter, 26, the 2006 Olympic champ, came on strong late in the qualifiers to earn her third Olympic trip, and Kaitlyn Farrington, 24, won the final qualifying event to guarantee her trip.
Arielle Gold, at 17, is the youngest of the group by far, but she’s established herself as one of the biggest riders in the world, already having won the 2013 World Championships, and landed on some of the world’s most important podiums.
She’s distinguished herself with high-flying, style-filled runs that continuously score high.
The half-pipe competitions will be early highlights in the Olympics. The men’s event is set for Feb. 11 with the women’s event coming Feb. 12.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9
2014 Winter Carnival Guide and Steamboat to Sochi Olympic Preview
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