Pro Snowboarder Arielle Gold on Overcoming Disappointment and Staying Fearless
Colorado native Arielle Gold became interested in snowboarding at age 7 because her older brother, the Olympian Taylor Gold, was doing it. Fast-forward about a decade, and now the 19-year-old is one of the most promising athletes on the female halfpipe circuit—and has the medal collection to prove it. In 2014, Arielle was youngest member of the U.S. Sochi Winter Olympics halfpipe team (she was just 17 at the time, nbd). But literally moments before her competition, she injured herself during a practice run in a devastating way and was unable to compete.
With a horrible blow like this one, it’s tempting to curl up into a ball and cry—at least, that’s probably what we’d do—but Arielle has become even more determined since then. In between racking up the medals (she recently snagged a silver at the Winter X Games), she also finds time to attend the University of Colorado, where she’s studying to be a vet. On a rare break, we quizzed the pro athlete-slash-animal lover about the scariest parts of snowboarding and how disappointments can inspire you.
You started snowboarding for fun, but when did you decide to make it a career?
I wouldn't say that turning pro was necessarily a conscious decision that I made. I worked my way up the ranks, as any athlete does, and eventually ended up in a position where I was competing in an event that some of the best were attending. At the time I was still a bit unsure of which direction I wanted my snowboarding to go, but after having a couple of successful events and a lot of progression, I realized how much I enjoyed snowboarding. Sometimes my mom jokes about her wishing that I had pursued a safer sport, such as tennis, but I know that she just wants me to be happy.
Tell us about what happened prior to 2014 Sochi Games.
Due to less than ideal conditions, we hadn't gotten much practice up until that point, so I was trying to move into my tricks as quickly as possible. After landing a frontside 720, a trick that I consider to be relatively easy at this point, I hit a bump and some slush in the flat bottom of the halfpipe that threw me onto my stomach, and my feet went over my head. My shoulder came out in the crash. This was challenging for me, as the Olympics is an event that you prepare years for, and I didn't even have the opportunity to compete. However, I have done everything that I can to use this setback to be even more prepared if I get another opportunity.
How do you stay motivated to follow your dreams, despite setbacks like these?
Sometimes it can be challenging to find motivation to continue working, particularly after injuries. My advice is to go out, have fun, and remember why you started doing your sport in the first place.
Do you still get nervous before a competition?
I get nervous now more than ever! I try my best not to have expectations for myself, but with competing, those expectations seem to creep back, and they definitely bring the butterflies with them.
What's the scariest experience you've ever had while snowboarding?
A few years ago I was training halfpipe, working on frontside 900s, arguably the most difficult trick that I can do. I went early on one, and didn't get the right amount of pop off of the wall, so when I came back down to land my heels clipped the top of the halfpipe and I started falling backwards into the flat-bottom. This fall was scarier because I can still remember falling backwards, feeling like it was in slow motion. I wondered if I was going to land on my head, and if I was going to be okay afterwards. Falling sucks enough already, when you are mid-fall and have time to think about what's going to happen, that makes it much worse.
What do you like to do when you're not boarding?
I work with an animal rescue called Animal Rescue of the Rockies, which is based out of Breckenridge, where I train during the winter. They pull dogs and cats from overcrowded shelters throughout the US, where they would otherwise have been euthanized. They then place them in foster homes throughout Colorado, and give them any medical or emotional help that they need before finding new homes for them. I foster dogs for them whenever my schedule allows it, and try to use my success in snowboarding as a fundraising opportunity for them whenever it is possible.