Snowboarding siblings Taylor and Arielle Gold ready to go for gold in Sochi
As odd as it may seem, no athlete with the surname “Gold” has ever competed at the Olympics. This year, the U.S. snowboarding team will have two Golds competing for the gold in Sochi.
Taylor and Arielle Gold, siblings from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, officially clinched their spots on the U.S. Olympic halfpipe team during a marathon round of qualifiers last weekend at Mammoth Mountain.
Arielle, 17, is the younger of the siblings and the youngest member of the women’s halfpipe team. High expectations were placed upon her after a breakout season in 2013, and she delivered, finishing as one of the top five Americans in four of the five qualifying events. Arielle earned a spot on the team over veteran riders Gretchen Bleiler, 32, and Elena Hight, 24, both two-time Olympians who have been on the team since 2006.
Arielle owes much of her success to her brother. Afterall, it was older sibling Taylor, now 20, who convinced her to switch from skiing to snowboarding. Arielle had started skiing when she was three years old, but saw how much fun Taylor was having after his first two years of snowboarding. “I turned seven and he was still doing it, and it seemed he was really enjoying it,” Arielle said. “So I thought I’d give it a try. I ended up liking it more than I liked skiing.”
After qualifying, Arielle tweeted this photo with the caption: "Well, it's officially official. @taylor_gold and I are going to the Olympics!" (Photo: @arielletgold)
Snow sports run in the family. Their father, Ken Gold, was a former professional moguls skier. He recently explained to The New York Times the role that Taylor played in shaping his sister’s riding, saying that his advice included telling her, “You need to do things the way the guys do. You need to grab your snowboard, you need to go big, you have style, you need to have aggression in your riding.”
Ten years later, Arielle is Sochi-bound and has been pegged as the future of women’s halfpipe. Among the tricks she’s been trying to work on is the 1080 – three complete rotations. It’s a progressive trick that Kelly Clark, a rider 13 years her senior, first landed just three years ago.
“Honestly, when I first started snowboarding, I never really saw myself getting this far in my sport,” she said. “I just started out doing it for fun, just doing it like any other sport to do in the winter, and it slowly turned into something like this. It was definitely unexpected, but I’m really happy about where I am now.”
Embedded owg_slideshow: Model Olympian: Arielle Gold
A rookie on the U.S. snowboarding team this year, expectations were more subdued for Taylor. Leading up to the Olympic qualifiers, Taylor was flying under the radar, typically left out of the discussion of who would be going to Sochi. Perhaps fueled in part by seeing the success of his sister last year, the breakout that ensued was one for the ages.
It all started with a third place finish against a full international field of competitors at the iON Mountain Championships in Breckenridge, then continued with a win at the Copper Grand Prix – his first major contest victory.
Embedded video_content_type: Taylor Gold wins Copper Mountain snowboard pipe
At the time, Taylor said, “I’m not really focused on the result, and I’m still not going to be focused on the result. I just want to land my run and ride my best. I’m just going to let it flow and see what happens.”
It may not have been his focus, but the results kept coming for Taylor. After two more podium appearances in the first two halfpipe qualifiers at Mammoth, he became the first American to officially qualify for a spot on the Olympic team.
Taylor celebrates with his sister after his victory at the Copper Grand Prix. (Photo: USSA)
Even if gold medals may seem a little ambitious for the Gold siblings considering the depth and talent of their competition - including on their own team - there’s no question that they will both be medal contenders in Sochi.
Arielle will be joined on the women’s halfpipe team by 2002 gold and 2010 bronze medalist Kelly Clark, 2006 gold and 2010 silver medalist Hannah Teter and fellow first-time Olympian Kaitlyn Farrington. Taylor’s teammates on the men’s halfpipe squad are two-time gold medalist Shaun White, 2010 Olympian Greg Bretz and first-time Olympian Danny Davis.
The first day of halfpipe competition in Sochi will be Tuesday, February 11.