Taylor Gold earns Olympic spot

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— Taylor Gold has been Arielle Gold’s brother for 17 years, and he always will be her brother.

It’s something he’s plenty proud of, especially after she burst onto the snowboarding scene a year ago. That doesn’t mean he always appreciated that sibling relationship being his most noteworthy feature.

Thanks to a jaw-dropping start to the 2013-14 snowboarding season, the Steamboater won’t be the anonymous brother ever again.

A long shot to start the season, Taylor Gold capped his incredible run through Olympic qualifying events Friday by finishing second and third in a pair of half-pipe snowboarding competitions in California.

The top results locked Gold in as the first of the men’s snowboarders to secure his spot for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Taylor Gold is going to the Olympics.

“It’s crazy,” he said hours after the results were finalized, his ticket punched. “I’m so stoked. I didn’t have any real expectations for today. I just wanted to land some runs, so I’m really stoked to put it down.”

Riders hoping to make the Olympics competed Friday in two half-pipe snowboarding events at Mammoth Mountain resort in California, the results counting for two of the five total events that will be used to select the Russia-bound Americans.

Gold shocked the snowboarding world — even admittedly himself — when he burst on the scene at the first qualifier, finishing third at the Dew Tour in Breckenridge. He was even better soon after, winning the second qualifying event in Copper Mountain.

He finished up his quest Friday. Athletes will count their top two results from the five events and Gold now has a first and a second, tying him with Shaun White and Greg Bretz. Gold also has a third-place finish, giving him the tie-breaking advantage over those two and ensuring no other riders could possibly bump him out of the top three.

“I didn’t expect it,” he said about being the first to qualify in men’s half-pipe. “I thought Greg or Shaun would be the first ones. I’m definitely surprised.”

Gold mastered his current run this summer when he still was nearly anonymous snowboarder, just “Arielle’s brother.” It’s a run few other riders in the world can touch, and it’s one he repeatedly has laid down nearly flawlessly regardless of the mounting pressure.

On Friday, Danny Davis won the first event with a score of 95.2 and Gold was right on his heels, second at 94.0. White won the second competition with a score of 98.6. Scotty Lago was second at 94.8 and Gold third at 94.0.

“Today I just did the same runs I did at Copper and Breck. They were just bigger than they have been,” Gold said.

He wasn’t the only Steamboater to show well in California, though several others will be looking for good results in the final Olympic qualifier Sunday to lock in their spots.

Arielle Gold still is in second in the overall women’s standings and had fourth and eighth place finishes Friday.

Matt Ladley had his best result of the season, placing third in the day’s first event, just behind Taylor Gold. He’s still alive for the Olympics, though likely will need to win Sunday’s event to make the trip.

Benji Farrow couldn’t get a good run down and finished 15th twice.

Maddy Schaffrick, meanwhile, had her day of the season, finishing sixth in one event. She was eighth in the other, which also eliminated her from Sochi.

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