Bleiler Keeps Focus @ Winter X
Gretchen Bleiler treats every question as if it’s the first time she’s heard it, giving the same honest answer for the third or fourth time.
She does it for close to 45 minutes, sitting on an uncomfortable-looking barstool as waves of cameras, microphones and tape recorders flash in front of her face. Finally, Bleiler gets up and tries to leave, but is stopped several times by well-wishers and reporters who want to get that one last question in.
Through it all, her countenance never cracks, that gleam in her eye and cheeky smile just as bright as when she walked into the tent an hour earlier.
Whether it’s answering reporters’ questions, doing magazine cover shoots or repeated takes for a commercial, Bleiler is always accommodating. It’s a hectic life, making sure everyone gets what they need, but she finds a way to wade through it all and keep her focus on what’s important: winning snowboard contests.
“I’m not on the mountain any less. It’s just more busy before and after,” Bleiler said before the start of the Winter X Games. “Generally, when you do all these kinds of things, you get pulled in a bunch of different directions. I just have to be strong mentally.”
So far, she has been.
With photogenic looks and a buttery-smooth style that seems effortless, Bleiler has been the darling of women’s snowboarding, possibly the most recognizable athlete in her sport behind Shaun White. But Bleiler knows that it’s what she does on the snow that leads to everything that happen off it.
Even after taking silver in the halfpipe at the 2006 Turin Olympics, Bleiler kept her focus, winning two FIS World Cup events later that year and four more events in 2007. She also took silver in the halfpipe at last year’s Winter X Games, adding to a collection that includes gold medals in 2003 and 2005.
“All that stuff is great, but I know what’s important,” said Bleiler, who was first after Thursday’s elimination round with a 92.66. “If I don’t keep up with what I’m supposed, put my time in on the mountain, it can all go away. I’ve just got to keep focused.”
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