US Olympic medalist Arielle Gold retires from competitive snowboarding
Steamboat Springs native, Breck local won bronze at Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After a decadelong, illustrious snowboarding career, Olympic snowboarder Arielle Gold announced her retirement Tuesday.
The Steamboat Springs native and Breckenridge local hasn’t competed since March 2019 due to prolonged symptoms of a concussion. She said she had focused on school and self-love throughout the past year and a half, hardly even touching a board.
But that didn’t make the decision to retire from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard team any easier, Gold said. She added that the decision came after years of consideration.
“It has been incredibly difficult to come to terms with moving on from a career that has played such a substantial role in my life,” Gold said. “But the decision to retire ultimately came down to prioritizing my physical health and emotional well-being.
“Competing in professional halfpipe snowboarding was gratifying beyond words, but it also had begun to take a substantial toll on my physical and emotional health, and I believe that my passion for snowboarding will only intensify as I shift into retirement.”
U.S. Ski and Snowboard published the announcement Tuesday, July 6, making her choice all the more real. She texted her father, Ken Gold, a former Colorado-based professional moguls skier himself, when her decision was revealed to the world.
“Seeing this announcement hurts me physically,” she typed to him.
Gold’s greatest hits
Gold was on the U.S. Snowboard Pro Halfpipe Team for nine years and was on the rookie team for two years before that. She is a two-time Olympian and International Ski & Snowboard Federation halfpipe world champion and has three X Game medals to her name.
In 2013, at age 16, she won gold in halfpipe at the FIS Snowboarding World Championships. That was the beginning of a beautiful year for Gold. She won bronze at her first Winter X Games, coming in as an alternate to fill in for injured women’s snowboard pioneer Gretchen Bleiler. She went on to win the Burton European Open in Laax, Switzerland, and won bronze at X Games Europe.
The next year, at 17, she was the youngest member of the halfpipe team at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia. She was a strong contender for the podium but was forced out of competition after separating her shoulder during a practice run.
Through 2015 and 2016, she earned a few more top finishes in major events, like the U.S. Open in Vail, and picked up a pair of X Games medals in Aspen and Norway.
Her career almost stopped there. Ahead of the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, she considered calling it quits, especially after persisting shoulder injuries. She talked the idea over with her family, who supported her, but her father counseled her to really think about it.
“I just don’t want you to look back and say, ‘I regret not taking another shot at it,’” he said. “But if you’re going to do it, you’ve got to drop everything else.”
He didn’t want her to not have a true Olympic experience, especially after 2014, and he hoped she would give everything she had and not halfway commit to the sport.
Gold decided to stick it out, landing a spot on the Olympic team. She came in as an underdog but earned bronze.
“Months before the Pyeongchang games, I made the decision to pursue another Olympics, and that I would do everything in my power to earn that opportunity,” she said. “I began working with a sports psychologist multiple times a week, gradually shifting my perspective toward snowboarding and allowing me to enjoy it more than I had in years.
“While the prospect of earning a medal was once unfathomable, perhaps the most gratifying part of the 2018 Olympic Games was that I genuinely enjoyed every moment of the process.”
Before the third run — the run of her life — she stood at the top of the halfpipe and called her brother, Taylor Gold. He had been injured and was just getting out of surgery. She asked what she should do, and her brother said she had no choice but to give everything she had.
So she did.
“That bond between them is incredibly unique, and (I enjoyed) being able to watch their relationship blossom over the years from battling enemies when they were little kids,” Ken Gold said. “That moment was a statement about the whole thing. In that moment, the one person she wanted to talk to was him.”
Her next career, the last year
The craziest part about Gold’s career in snowboarding is that it isn’t even her biggest passion
She’s always had a love for animals, particularly horses, and wanted to become a veterinarian. She recently completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado Boulder and is in the process of applying to schools to get her degree in veterinary medicine. She’s also working full time at a veterinary emergency room to get some experience.
In her retirement announcement, Gold said she’s known she wanted to be a vet long before she wanted to be a snowboarder. It’s always been her first love.
Now, she’ll be able to focus solely on that goal, which made the decision to step away from snowboarding a little easier.
Finishing undergrad is just one of the things Gold has accomplished in the past year. Recovering from her injury and the pandemic gave her time to grow as a person, and as many young 20-somethings do, she “found herself.”
She started going to CrossFit, which helped her love her muscular body shape, something she battled with for years. She used her platform to speak out about body image and self-love through an Instagram post in October 2020.
“Relatability is something I would have benefited a lot from, which made me want to post something,” Gold said in 2020. “To anybody that follows me or people who follow professional athletes, we’re people, too, and we share a lot of the same insecurities.”
As her life has, her Instagram has shifted from snowboarding highlights and promotional material to genuine snapshots of her life, a change she credits to her newfound friend group.
“I would have to say that the people who I have met as I’ve transitioned away from snowboarding have likely had the greatest influence in inspiring me to embrace my full self,” Gold said. “I wouldn’t say that these characteristics are necessarily things I was suppressing before, but I absolutely believe that the friends that I have made are simply bringing out the best qualities in me.”
Embracing her full self, Gold celebrated her bisexuality during June’s Pride Month.
“I have never been defined by my sexuality, but opening myself to the possibilities has taught me to love based on who people are rather than what they are,” she said in an Instagram post. “And in doing so, I have never felt closer to the woman I was always meant to be.”
The woman she was always meant to be may no longer ride professionally. But at 25, Gold has time to master a new skill and retire a few times over. Right now, she’s aiming to become a vet, but there’s no ceiling for what’s next.
This story is from SteamboatPilot.com