Go For The Gold


Snowboarder Chas Guldemond poses for a portrait during the
USOC photo shoot on April 26, 2013 in West Hollywood, Calif.

Next winter, for the first time, slopestyle snowboarding will be a part of the Olympic Winter Games. So get used to hearing Chas Guldemond’s name.

If you’re even a casual fan of extreme sports, the name is already familiar to you. Guldemond is one of the best competitive snowboarders in the world, and if there are too many professional athletes who have no idea how lucky they are, who take for granted that they get to play a kid’s game for a living, Guldemond is not one of them.

Guldemond, in fact, speaks of his life with the energy of a guy who just hit the Powerball. You’re hard pressed to find a single picture in which he’s not smiling ear-to-ear. Check out one of his TeamUSA.org blog posts -- the ones chronicling his worldly travels and photo shoots and triple-cork training sessions -- and you'll find that it's all he can do to not end every sentence with an exclamation point.
Can't beat spring shredding in Tahoe!
Great session on the jump!

Even when things go terribly, horribly wrong, still, it’s all good. A few months back, as he was making the eight-hour trek from Lake Tahoe to San Diego, the brakes on Guldemond’s truck went out. After he managed to merge across five lanes and pull onto an embankment, smoke began pouring from beneath the hood. And the next thing he knew, his whole truck was up in flames. For most people, this is a runaway for worst day ever. For Guldemond, it’s a “crazy” story to tell. Not more than a few hours later he was hamming it up for a picture with the firemen and writing, “Hats off to those good men in Boyle Heights!”

Then hopped on a plane for Japan and the Toyota Big Air competition.
"I'm so grateful to be able to snowboard for a living," he says, and why not? These extreme sports guys are having a serious ball. They're the new-age cool kids, the perpetually stoked snow surfers who rock their hats a little crooked and talk about "stomping out runs." They're not your most traditional athletes. They're not your father's athletes. But even Pops has to admit: one flip of the channel to the X Games, where riders are pulling aerial tricks reserved for the nuttiest of daredevils, where a gravity-defying Cab 1080 double-cork will have you questioning your eyes, and suddenly that ballgame you were watching starts to feel like something of a dead party.

Chas Guldemond goes airborne as he descends the course
during the men's slopestyle elimination at 2013 Winter X Games
Aspen at Buttermilk Mountain on Jan. 24, 2013 in Aspen, Colo.

"Since I turned pro in 2006, competitive snowboarding has progressed so much,” Guldemond said. “It is an honor to know that my fellow competitors, myself and the snowboarding community have built slopestyle up to the point of being an Olympic sport.”
One of the most recognizable and accomplished snowboarders this side of Shaun White, Guldemond – a U.S. Open and world champion who in 2009 took home the largest one-day payout in snowboarding history – will surely be one of the favorites for a medal in Sochi. And he intends to take full advantage of that opportunity.

“My plan going into Sochi is to be prepared to win,” he said. “I’m following the plan I’ve set out for myself; it’s a little different than my normal routine, and I’m working on the newest and biggest tricks.”

As for what, exactly, those ‘newest and biggest’ tricks are, only Guldemond knows. And he’s not telling. But rest assured, when the time comes for that fateful Olympic run next winter, the one he’s been working toward since the days when he had to work side jobs and hitchhike to the mountain in his home New Hampshire, he’ll be ready. He’ll have planned and perfected his money run, his bad-weather run, his pull-out-all-the-stops-and-go-for-broke run. And you can bet he’ll have a trick or two up his sleeve, just in case, because the competition has never been better.

Snowboarder Chas Guldemond poses for a portrait during the
USOC photo shoot on April 26, 2013 in West Hollywood, Calif.

Indeed, the Olympics’ inclusion of slopestyle boarding has given the sport an even grander platform, and thus, taken it to an even higher level. Even guys like Guldemond, who has won virtually every major title in snowboarding, aren’t safe from being left behind – a lesson he learned the hard way at this year’s X Games, where he wound up finishing fourth but admits to feeling “way behind” the winning riders, like for the first time in his career he didn’t have the tricks in his bag to win.

But that won’t happen again. Just as he did in the wake of the X Games, when he went returned home to Tahoe to finally take on the challenge of the triple cork, the borderline terrifying trick that had long kept him up nights, Guldemond will continue to push his own limits in pursuit of every athlete’s ultimate prize: an Olympic gold medal.

“It’s comforting knowing that I’ll be one of the most experienced riders (in Sochi),” Guldemond said. “Whatever happens, I won’t have any regrets because I know I am doing everything I possibly can to prepare myself to win. I am grateful for the chance to represent my country and I intend to make the most of it.”

Exclamation point, for once, pending.

Brad Botkin is a freelance contributor TeamUSA.org.