SHOOTING THE BREEZE: A Q&A with Olympic snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler
Gretchen Bleiler wants to be mentally and physically stronger than she has ever been when the 2010 Winter Olympics begin on Feb. 10 in Vancouver.
And for the Team USA half-pipe snowboarder and part-time Carlsbad resident, that means spending more and more time in the gym and on the mountain.
Bleiler, who won a silver medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, said the drive to get stronger is part of a plan to overcome a mental hurdle caused by a big fall at the 2009 Winter X Games —- one she agrees wasn’t the worst of her career.
But it isn’t all work for the 28-year-old; she’s also enjoying the spoils of her labor, having recently made appearances on NBC’s “Today” show and “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.”
The North County Times recently caught up with Bleiler and asked her about preparing for the winter, enjoying the ride and bouncing back from her big spill.
Q: The first, and only, time I ever got on a snowboard, I remember thinking, ‘That ice looks hard’ and falling all day. What do you remember about your first time on a snowboard?
A: I remember falling on my butt very violently and having it be hard to pick myself up from some of the positions I was falling in. But at the end of the day I had it figured out and we went up to the top of the mountain. Our instructor said, ‘This is pretty good, most people don’t get to do this.’ He said, ‘You’re a natural.’ And I’m sure he tells everybody that but I was like, ‘Oh cool.’
Q: Since then you’ve been on national TV and you’re going to be featured in Glamour. What do you think of where snowboarding has taken you?
A: It’s amazing. When I was a senior in high school, I decided to defer a year from college and commit to snowboarding and see how far I could take it. It was always my goal to do everything I could to be the best that I could be. Along the way I’ve had my successes and because of that I’ve had so many amazing opportunities off the hill. It’s just amazing. It’s fun and for me, I like taking advantage of the opportunities I get off the mountain because I think it only helps me grow and opens me up to new things.
Q: You mentioned your successes: multiple gold medals in the Winter X-Games, a silver medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics and an ESPY award. But your resume appears to be incomplete —- you’re a three-time finalist for the Teen Choice Awards but haven’t won?
A: I don’t know what is up with the Teen Choice Awards. One year, actually, I don’t think they announced a winner in that category (Best Female Action Sports Athlete). So they need to just let me win. Three years in a row, come on.
Q: So we’re about 80 days from Vancouver, what are your workouts like?
A: Right now I’m in 24 Hour Fitness as much as I can be. It’s a really important time for the quick, explosive, agility, biometrics and the workouts that kill, so it’s tough. It’s kind of like the cram before the finals. It’s here, it’s coming and I want to make sure I’m as strong as I can be.
Q: Do you travel to find snow when there is none nearby?
A: Yeah. Snowboarding has really become a year-round sport. When I first started, people were riding in the summer at Mt. Hood in Oregon, but it was just a couple weeks. Now, our main competition season is November through April. But then we go to Mt. Hood in June and July, New Zealand in August and September, and sometimes Argentina and Chile. Really, we’re chasing the snow around.
Q: Did you sustain a concussion when you fell at the 2009 Winter X-Games?
A: I didn’t actually. It was one of those falls that it looked pretty bad and the fact that it was live on TV didn’t help things. A lot of people fall like that or even worse. But it affected me even more than I thought it would because wherever I went, people were asking about it. And it brought it back and it became this mental thing for me. But I’m glad it happened because it forced me to re-evaluate my game plan going into this season —- for the better. Because of that fall I’ve stepped up and gotten to another level.
Q: That’s good with the Olympics coming up?
Q: Those falls happen though, right? It’s the nature of the sport.
A: Yeah, it’s our job to push ourselves, push the sport. And when you’re doing that you’re pushing past fears, pushing past boundaries and sometimes that means falling. But that’s why it’s so important to be strong and be in the gym before you go out and do that stuff because it’s great for confidence —- you’re strong and you’ve done your homework.
Name: Gretchen Bleiler
Favorite boarding spot: Snowmass Mtn., (Snowmass, Colo.)
Favorite half-pipe trick: Crippler 720
Favorite event summer 2009: Getting married
Favorite band: Jem
Favorite cartoon character: Superwoman
Lady Gaga, yes or no?: “Sure, why not.”
Twitter or Facebook: Both