UniversalSports.com “Speaking with Gretchen Bleiler: Two-time Olympian focused on learning new moves this season”
A two-time Olympian who won silver at the 2006 Games, Gretchen Bleiler sees this winter as one of transition. After spending the past decade focused on primarily results — which have included four X Games golds and two U.S. Open titles in addition to the Olympic silver — the 29-year-old is now more intent on expanding her repertoire than growing her hardware collection. We spoke with her prior to snowboarding season kicking into top gear.
Are you working on any new tricks this season, or is it just refining what you have?
No, this year is all about new — new tricks, pushing myself in new directions. I’ve been snowboarding professionally now for about 10 years and I’ve been very contest-driven. Where I am in my career now, I need to change up my motivation. I’ve accomplished almost all of the goals that I’ve had, so now what gives me satisfaction is learning. So it’s going to be all about learning new tricks in the pipe, riding more parks, getting comfortable on any and every sized jump, and learning different tricks on jumps. So really it’s going to be less about competition this season and more about just riding.
Are there specific tricks you’re working on?
This summer I was working on backside 720s in the pipe and I want to bring that into a backside 900. I would love to start doing frontside 1080s, and working more on basic tricks — alley-oops, air-to-fakies, switch backside spins. Really I just want to grow my bag of tricks and get them all done with amplitude and different grabs.
Is the 1080 the new move for women like it was for the men in a few years ago, or is there a must-have move for women?
Sometimes it is getting that next rotation or maybe sometimes it’s more about getting a trick like the 900 but getting it done bigger. So it’s not so much like everyone’s going to be doing 1080s this year, but I think that is the natural step for a lot of the girls. But you can also take it in a different direction, like I’ve never done a switch backside spin in my run before, and that’s something that’s just as technical and I think just as valuable as a frontside 1080. So it’s not just the more you spin the better the tricks are, it’s thinking about you could spin frontside, backside, switch frontside, switch backside.
What is the hardest part of snowboarding for you?
That’s a good question. I guess for me the hardest days are when it is well below zero, the halfpipe is so icy you can see through it and you’re in a situation where — actually last year (there was) a perfect example — we have to practice because we’ve got an Olympic qualifier coming up. There’s no saying it’s too cold, it’s too icy to ride today. You have to figure it out and push yourself to practice in any condition.
You’ve said you enjoy strength training because it helps you in the pipe. Is that common among snowboarders these days?
It is becoming more and more common. When I first started snowboarding, snowboarders didn’t work out. Snowboarders are generally active people, so we’re all out doing something, but we’re not necessarily in the gym training. Like for me, if you’re a professional snowboarder it makes sense to do everything you can to be your best. So when you go into the season, you’re strong, which is great for confidence, but it’s also great for injury prevention. I think more and more people are seeing this and the benefits of it, so more and more people are doing it.
How much longer would you like to compete?
There’s definitely not a date or a time where I’m going to say I’m done. Really I’m taking this season just to have this new plan and try out these things to figure out that longer term plan. This is that year to determine what the future is going to be. But honestly, I think with this sort of renewed mentality into competing, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun for me. As long as I’m having fun and pushing my snowboarding and pushing women’s snowboarding, then I will keep doing it.
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