900 powers Steamboat’s Arielle Gold to Grand Prix finals | SteamboatToday.com

900 powers Steamboat’s Arielle Gold to Grand Prix finals

Arielle Gold competes in the halfpipe qualifiers during the Dew Tour event last month in Breckenridge.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The first official judge's review of Arielle Gold's newest snowboarding trick in the halfpipe will have to wait at least until Saturday.

But the Steamboat Springs snowboarder’s focus on building that trick — a 1080 spin, three full rotations — has bolstered her fundamentals in other parts of her riding and that, she said, is what helped make the difference Thursday in the qualifying round of the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix event in Snowmass.

Gold was the top qualifier in the event, laying down a run that scored in at 91.00, one of the best scores she's attained since she qualified for the last Olympic team.

"It was the cleanliness, the amplitude, and I did a 900 and not many other girls did for qualifying," she said.

The competition is the third of four U.S. Olympic Team qualifiers for snowboard halfpipe. The final event is next week at Mammoth Mountain, California.

The 900 — two-and-a-half rotations — has been an essential trick for Gold. Her adding it to her run in 2013 was one of the major factors in her surge to the elite tier of her sport. Since then, she's made the Olympic team and stood on podiums around the world, including at X Games Aspen.

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She’s never felt comfortable enough with it to use it in the qualifying rounds, however. Riders typically aim for safety and stability there, just hoping to score well enough to advance to finals without taking on too much risk.

"I haven't been doing the 900 in qualifiers, but I've been working on those a lot this year and made it my mission to do that in every qualifier," she said. "If I land it, I know I should be able to get into finals. When I don't do it, my run looks the same as a lot of people's. It's more difficult to make myself stand out."

Working so hard on that 1080 has been a big help for several reasons.

One, it pushed her to switch up her standard grab to something a little easier, a tail grab instead of a mute grab.

Two, before she could take a serious attempt at the 1080 she had issues in her 900 to clean up, so she's spent plenty of pipe time perfecting the details.

Three, knowing she can land something more difficult, the 1080, has taken some of the fear out of the 900.

"Having another trick that's more challenging than that makes them seem less scary," she said. "A lot of it is me overthinking that trick."

She'll be looking for another strong result Saturday in the finals. A podium finish could be enough to guarantee her a spot at her second Olympics, and she said she definitely plans to deploy the 1080 hoping to get that result.

Thursday, she got her score on her first run. Maddie Mastro was second on the day at 90.25. Hikaru Oe of Japan was third at 86.00, Kelly Clark fourth at 85.00 and Chloe Kim fifth at 82.00. Queralt Castellet of Spain will also make finals with a 79.25.

Notably, several of the top competitors to challenge Kim, Clark, Mastro and Gold for an Olympic spot, veterans like Elena Hight and Hannah Teter, missed finals. Teter was ninth with a score of 70.00 and Hight 11th at 63.50.

"Normally I don't read too far into qualifying results," Gold said. "I've qualified high and not finished high and qualified low and been on the podium, but the mission doing that run today was to qualify high and not have to stress about getting bumped out."

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9.