Steamboat snowboarder Arielle Gold lands new trick, stumbles on old
SNOWMASS — Arielle Gold decided before her first run Saturday this wasn’t a day for a safe run, that it when she took to the halfpipe at Snowmass on her snowboard in the third of four Olympic qualifiers, she’d leave nothing in her bag of tricks.
In a practical sense that meant she was going to throw the big trick she’s been practicing, the 1080 — three full spins in the air — on all three runs no matter what.
She landed it all three times, playing her own part in a day that saw both the men and the women push the sport further in a day than it often is in a year.
She couldn’t match her execution of that key trick to the rest of her run, however, and placed sixth.
Spain’s Queralt Castellet showed just show important landing that trick can be. She hit it and followed it up with a big, clean run to win the event with a score of 91.50. U.S. riders Chloe Kim, a 1080 master herself, was second at 88.75 and Maddie Mastro third at 87.25.
Driven by the kind of pressure only an Olympic year can muster, five women attempted 1080s and the men engaged in a trick showdown that wasn’t over until Shaun White laid out a perfect run, at least in the eyes of the day’s judges, scoring in at 100.00.
“It’s crazy. It’s cool to see the progression of the sport, to see girls pushing it and working on new tricks,” Gold said.
She ended up having to grab for the snow late on her first run while trying to spin a 900 — two-and-a-half rotations.
“That’s what was most frustrating, to fall on the 9,” she said. “That’s a trick I’ve been lacing every time for the most part.”
She wasn’t completely clean on the 1080 landing and dragged a hand on the 900 on her second run. She crashed out hard on the third, painfully tweaking a shoulder that’s bothered her since the 2014 Winter Olympics.
There were two big takeaways at the end for Gold.
First, she can land the 1080, a trick that’s gone from “would really help” over the past several years to “must have” Saturday.
Second, she still has work to do to secure her spot at the Olympics. Opening Ceremonies is less than a month away, Feb. 9 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Mastro locked up her spot on the team with that third-place finish. Kim and Clark both also have secured their spots.
The last Olympic qualifier is next weekend at Mammoth Mountain, California. Gold’s in a strong position to secure the last of four U.S. women’s halfpipe slots.
The two closest women behind Gold, Elena Hight and Hannah Teter, are both incredibly accomplished, both Winter X Games champions and Olympians. Teter won the gold in 2010 in Vancouver, British Columbia. But, neither has landed on the podium yet this year in the Olympic qualifiers, giving Gold, third at an event last month, an advantage.
But, it’s not a done deal.
“I feel alright. I was hoping today would have gone better to get a little more of a sure spot, but I feel good about where I’m riding and if next week goes how I’m planning for it to go, I should be fine,” she said.
On the men’s side, White’s high-flying, high-scoring run secured his position on his fourth Olympic team. The 2006 and 2010 gold medalist highlighted a brilliant show by a top-notch men’s field.
After two rounds the results were fairly mundane, topping out at 88.50. Eagle’s Jake Pates landed a big run to score in at 94.00. Australian Scott James, perhaps the hottest hand entering the season, threw down with a score of 96.25. Japan’s Yuto Totsuka bumped Pates down a spot and came in right behind James with a score of 94.50.
Finally, White set out from the top, nailed his run and scored in at 100.00.
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