Snowboarder Taylor Gold waited with baited breath as Arielle stood at the top of the pipe.
He had already qualified for his first Olympic Games, but he couldn’t celebrate until he knew his sister, Arielle, was going with him.
Growing up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, there are more Olympians than Starbucks, but sibling Olympians? That’s a little bit less common.
Taylor, the older brother, got hooked on snowboarding first.
“I just had so much fun,” Taylor remembered. “It was by far the best part of my younger years was riding with all my friends at the Winter Sports Club. I think that just kind of made it super fun for me and then getting into the competition I was really excited about seeing how well I could fare against the other riders and push myself to a higher level.”
As the younger sister, Arielle let her brother test the waters before diving in herself.
“I was kinda was just waiting to see if he kept doing it to see if he was really enjoying it,” Arielle said. “He was really having fun with it after a couple years still so I just decided to try it.”
Arielle followed in his brother’s footsteps straight to the top of the half-pipe, much to their mother’s chagrin.
“I think my mom would probably rather we both play tennis,” Arielle laughed.
But instead, they found their home in the air, above the glistening snow. Taylor fell in love with the half-pipe while watching the 2002 Winter Olympics. Arielle followed a few years later.
The two did everything snowboard-related together. They trained together, rode together, pushed each other and encouraged each other along the way. They knew what this year’s qualifying events showed so clearly: making the United States Olympic snowboarding half-pipe team is probably harder than actually medaling at the Games.
Olympic snowboarding is still a young enough sport that knocking pioneers of the sport like Shaun White, who will be going for his third Olympic gold medal in the pipe, and Kelly Clark, heading to her fourth Olympics and looking for her third medal, is pretty unthinkable. Instead, it’s a matter of a very talented field of young, up and coming riders competing for only two spots instead of the allotted three to Team USA.
White and Clark are the most recognized half-pipe boarders, but they’re far from being the only talented ones. Taylor and Arielle had their work cut out for them if they wanted to make the team, and up until about a year ago, very few knew the Gold siblings were on the radar for the 2014 Games.
During the 2011 season Taylor landed a spot on the FIS World Championships team in Spain, but when he was sidelined for most of the 2012 season with injuries, many people forgot about the teenager with potential.
Instead, he had to live vicariously through his sister. When Taylor went down, Arielle took his place. She burst onto the scene in 2012 and immediately made a name for herself. She won the FIS World Junior Championships and took fourth at the Burton United States Open. She continued her streak in 2013 by turning an invite to the Aspen X Games into a bronze medal. And even though she was great, she said she’d never imagined she’d have the success she did.
“When I was younger I always thought it would be pretty amazing to go to the Olympics,” Arielle said. “But I never really knew what for. It wasn’t really something that I expected to happen.”
“It’s definitely challenging when one of us succeeds and the other doesn’t,” Arielle said. “It’s kind of a bummer, it’s bittersweet even for whoever is doing well.”
Finally, this past season, the Golds’ success synched up.
Taylor stomped onto the scene by medaling in the first four Olympic qualifying events, even winning at Copper Mountain. Arielle positioned herself as one of the ones to beat as well, putting together some big moves and consistent rides, one of which landed her a silver medal at one of the Grand Prix Olympic qualifying events.
After not enough snow, then too much snow forced the two of the last three Olympic qualifiers to be moved around, the last three qualifiers were finally held back to back to back in Mammoth Mountain, California.
Going into the competition, Taylor had positioned himself well by having one gold medal under his belt, and then he placed at the first qualifier of the weekend and secured his spot.
It was Arielle’s fate that came down to the wire.
Taylor simply waited as Arielle stood at the top of the pipe.
After laying down some massive airs and crazy spins, Arielle had won her spot on the team.
“I was really relieved,” Taylor said. “I know that she deserved a chance after her season last year. I can’t wait for us both to go and I’m so excited that we’re going together. As cliché as it sounds, I just felt disbelief. You think about it so much in theory and then it actually happens it just doesn’t feel real”
Arielle felt the same.
“Just the fact that we’re both going is enough for us,” Arielle said. “I’m pretty excited about it. It’s going to be pretty fun. I’m just excited to see how everything goes and see what it’s all about.”
However, just showing up isn’t something this brother-sister tandem is known for. If things go as planned in Sochi, it could be a golden experiences for the Golds.