Snowboarder Arielle Gold won a medal at the Olympics in February. This summer, you might see her around campus.
If it’s summertime, Arielle Gold (Psych’20) is living like a true Boulderite.
She shares a house on The Hill with fellow students. She picks up shifts at a nearby smoothie shop, Rush Bowls, where she chats with customers and dines on as many peanut butter bowls as she pleases. She spends time with her horse, Sparky, during visits home to Steamboat Springs. And she keeps fit.
I didn’t want to have any regrets about holding back.”
This summer she also expects to take classes on campus at CU, a rare treat for the newly minted Olympic medalist.
“I love sitting in a classroom and learning in person,” said Gold, 22, a globetrotting junior who’s completed most of her CU Boulder classes (and three years of high school) online, allowing her the flexibility to study, train and compete on the world stage.
A professional snowboarder since age 13, Gold already has invested nearly a decade of work in her craft. It paid off in February with a bronze medal in the women’s halfpipe competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. She’s the university’s first current student to win an Olympic medal, one of 13 other Buff medal winners and among more than 85 Buffs to have competed in the Olympic Games.With three X Games medals — in 2013, 2016 and 2018 — and a 2013 World Championships gold medal, Gold’s bronze in Pyeongchang brought her a new sense of accomplishment. In the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, she’d dislocated her shoulder in a training run, promptly ending her shot at a medal before she could try for one.
Sport: Snowboarding (halfpipe)
Olympic Medal: Bronze, Pyeongchang, 2018
Top Pump-Up Song: “8 Mile” by Eminem
Favorite Training Spot: Laax, Switzerland
Pre-Competition Ritual: Eat a full meal and listen to music
Pre-Workout Meal: Oats with almond milk and almond butter
Favorite Trick: Michalchuk (pronounced “Mi-kal-chuck”), a slow halfpipe backflip
Role Models: Fellow Olympians Taylor Gold (her brother) and gold medalist Kelly Clark
The injury, coupled with extreme emotional pressure, challenged her immensely for the next couple of years. With the help of a sports psychologist and a huge amount of training, she set her sights on the 2018 Olympics.
“For the past year, 90 percent of my thought process was about snowboarding,” said Gold, who grew up in Steamboat and lives there part-time in the off-season. “I was visualizing everything and doing everything I could physically and mentally to be ready.”
In Pyeongchang, winning a place on the podium came down to the last of three runs. She’d fallen on the first and earned a low score on the second. In between, Gold called her brother from the mountain to vent and refocus. Taylor Gold, also a professional snowboarder, was watching from Colorado.
“I mostly just told her how good her riding was looking, and any small adjustments or ideas I thought could help her put her run down,” said Taylor, 24, who competed in the 2014 Olympics in the halfpipe.
During her final run, Gold blasted Eminem's “8 Mile” and threw down an early 1080, a tough three-rotation trick she’d only landed about a dozen times.
“I tried to think about laying it all out there,” she said. “Taylor said I just have to go for it — I didn’t want to have any regrets about holding back.”
After an excruciatingly long wait — 11 riders followed Gold’s final run — she emerged with the bronze. American Chloe Kim took gold and China’s Jiayu Liu silver.
“When we knew she had actually won the bronze, my wife and I just collapsed in each other’s arms sobbing tears of joy for Arielle,” said Gold’s father, Ken Gold, who watched from the stands in Pyeongchang. “The fairytale actually came true.”
After the competition, an ecstatic Gold stayed in South Korea for about two weeks to watch the rest of the Olympics. One evening, she took five of the gold-medal-winning U.S. women’s hockey players to the slopes for some nighttime snowboarding.
“For some of them it was their first time,” said Gold. “I told them they were better than I was my first time.”
Soon after returning to the U.S., Gold dislocated her shoulder in her final competition of the season, the early-March Burton U.S. Open in Vail. She took it in stride, tweeting, “Dislocated my shoulder, bruised my sternum and destroyed all the nerves in my left butt cheek, but other than that we cool. #thriving.”
Gold plans to return to competition later this year with an eye on another Olympic appearance.
Ultimately, she aspires to become a veterinarian.
I wanted to be a vet before I wanted to be a snowboarder.”
“I wanted to be a vet before I wanted to be a snowboarder,” she said.
Gold, who rode her first horse at age 2, is most interested in equestrian medicine, but sees herself taking care of other animals, too, including her dream patient: A white tiger.
“Tigers in general are some of my favorite animals because of how fierce they are,” she said. “I used to have a tiger jacket several years ago that I loved, then my dad bought me a newer one this winter that is closer to a white tiger. [It] makes me feel like I’m channeling the energy of a tiger!”
When the time for snowboarding ends, the Colorado Buffalo might even try life as a Ram, should Gold make a match with Colorado State University’s renowned veterinary school.
“Arielle has always loved animals, all animals,” said her father. “She’s been particularly involved in rescuing dogs who are in kill shelters, and she’s fostered and found homes for 12 dogs, I believe, so far… I think her experience as an elite athlete, with all that is required to achieve those results, will serve her well in becoming a vet, and in being a great one.”
For now, Arielle is taking things one season at a time. Summer 2018 means Rush Bowls on The Hill, a psychology or writing class at CU, and, especially, downtime with her Boulder friends.
Said Gold: “They knew me as a person before they knew me as a snowboarder.”
Photo by Getty Images/Cameron Spencer (top)/Courtesy Arielle Gold