Going for the Gold: Gretchen Bleiler
The “Going for the Gold” series kicks off our One-Year-Countdown to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. We will feature a different 2010 U.S. Olympic or Paralympic hopeful each week with a vodcast on Friday of every month.
At the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games, snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler captured a silver medal in the halfpipe. Four years later, she’s hoping to make her second Winter Games appearance in Vancouver and will be searching for gold.
Bleiler grew up with two older brothers and one younger brother. She was a tomboy who always tried to keep up with her competitive brothers. When her family moved from Dayton, Ohio, to Aspen, Colo., when she was 10, her brothers learned how to snowboard, so she did too.
It was on the slopes that Bleiler was finally able to outdo her brothers. At 15, she became a certified professional snowboarder.
As one of the youngest riders, Bleiler became known for doing an “invert revolution,” which was only being done by male snowboarders. And she was the first girl to land a “Crippler 540,” an inverted backside 540, in competition. She’s inspired young women across the globe to give snowboarding a shot.
The 5-5 rider had dreams of making her Winter Games debut in 2002, but Bleiler didn’t make the U.S. Olympic Team. She lost out on the last spot in a triple tiebreaker. So instead, she set her sights on the Torino Winter Games and continued competing.
The “face of female snowboarding” earned four medals in the Winter X Games: 2003 (gold), 2005 (gold), 2007 (silver) and 2008 (gold). In 2004 and 2008, Bleiler received the Colorado Female Athlete of the Year Award. In 2006, after winning her Olympic silver medal, Bleiler was named the Female Snowboarder of the Year at Fuel’s Action Sports Awards.
In 2008, Bleiler founded the annual CoverGirl Snow Angels Invitational for female snowboarders only. She won an ESPY in the Best Female Action Sport Athlete category, and National Geographic bestowed the Adventurer of the Year Spirit Award upon her.
On Sept. 30, 2009, Oakley, which manufactures eyewear, googles, apparel and accessories, announced the release of the 2009 Gretchen Bleiler Signature Series. Bleiler, who assisted in creating and designing the series, models her designs on the company’s Web site. She is actively involved in protecting the environment, and some of the pieces in the series are made of 100 percent recycled materials and are recyclable themselves.
If Bleiler hadn’t done snowboarding, she said she probably would’ve taken up surfing. She has a place in southern California, and she tries to go there to surf whenever she can.
On Nov. 4, Bleiler helped celebrate the 100-day countdown until the Vancouver Games at Rockefeller Center in New York City, where she and other Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls appeared on NBC’s “Today” show.
That means Bleiler only has to wait three more months to avenge her Winter Games silver medal from 2006. Between now and then, she has five events in the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix on her docket to qualify for the Winter Games, and then would have the X Games after Vancouver.
And at 28, she’s still on top of her game. If she continues, maybe she’ll end up on top of the podium next year in Vancouver.
For the full story, please visit Skiing.TeamUSA.org