With a ‘new shoulder,’ Breckenridge snowboarder Arielle Gold balances halfpipe, school
Leading up to this week’s Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Resort, 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic bronze medalist Arielle Gold wasn’t sure she’d compete in the first World Cup halfpipe event of the season.
For the Breckenridge resident, there were several reasons why.
For one, the Steamboat Springs native is still breaking back into her riding form after a post-Olympic surgery last spring that, essentially, gave her a new shoulder. It’s one complete with two screws and a bone block via a Latarjet operation conducted by the U.S. Snowboard Team’s doctor.
The operation is one typically prescribed to treat recurrent shoulder dislocations, which Gold suffered through at competition after competition from the time she initially injured her right shoulder at the 2014 Sochi Olympics through her bronze-medal win in South Korea.
“I’ve got quite a bit of hardware in there that’s hopefully going to hold it in place,” Gold said at Wednesday’s Grand Prix qualifiers.
Gold also right now is in the midst of a hectic schedule splitting her time between prepping for the Dew Tour in Breckenridge and going to school, as this is the 22-year-old’s first semester pursuing a psychology degree at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
As long as she stays healthy and is feeling up to competing at Dew Tour, Gold will have to balance out conceiving and dialing-in a creative run on Breckenridge Ski Resort’s new modified superpipe while also studying for such courses as Intro To Chemistry and Psychological Statistics.
Why would an elite athlete put herself through this kind of a schedule in the wake of a major operation? For Gold, it’s all about taking one step at a time to her ultimate goal off-snow: becoming a veterinarian.
“I think it’s probably going to be another wait-and see-situation,” Gold said of competing at next week’s Dew Tour. “I’m so close to the homestretch of this semester and want to make sure I finish it strong so, whatever I have to do for that. It’s a long season with a lot of events so, for me, I kind of want to make sure I’m doing what’s the best for me both in snowboarding and in school.”
On Saturday morning at 11 at Copper Mountain, Gold is scheduled to be the third-to-last rider to drop into the eight-woman Grand Prix halfpipe finals.
She’ll be going for a familiar podium spot alongside Pyeongchang Olympic gold medalist Chloe Kim and the teen sensation’s fellow Californian star, Maddie Mastro.
Come competition time, Gold will probably be around 80-85 percent. That’s how she gauged her ability on the halfpipe during Thursday’s qualifiers.
For almost every skier and snowboarder at Copper this week, the Grand Prix has been about getting their riding legs back under them after a post-Olympic offseason chock full of rest and relaxation. For Gold, though, that element of getting back up to strength and speed is more amplified after the surgery.
In terms of preparation for the season, Gold was able to make it out to the U.S. team’s training camp at the Stomping Grounds Park at the glacier at Saas-Fee, Switzerland, for a week and a half in early October. But between her spring surgery and that trip, Gold was completely off snow, healing up.
“I was still limited in what I was allowed to do,” Gold said of her time in Saas-Fee. “It felt OK, I was still getting some weird soreness and crackling and popping noises that I think are just standard scar tissue breaking up and stuff.”
Between Saas-Fee and the Copper Grand Prix, on top of school work, Gold spent hours in the gym testing her shoulder to make sure it was in shape. No longer taking the anti-inflammatories and ibuprofen that helped her power through the pain in Pyeongchang, Gold put herself through workouts consisting of body-weight exercises, dumbbell lifts and a lot of band work — whatever she could do to strengthen her rotator cuff.
Since the surgery, she says, “knock on wood,” she hasn’t dislocated it again. That reality has her stoked on her shoulder’s health, which has been a longtime coming.
“By the time I had surgery this spring I was definitely ready for it,” Gold said. “And I was excited for it, because I was so sick of re-injuring my shoulder. I think it’s just given me a lot of confidence going into the season. Last season, it basically dislocated at least once at every contest. So, to kind of know that’s not going to be a problem this year is going to allow me to progress a lot faster and have more fun.”
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