Isabella Gomez, fourth-grade snowboarder, shreds competition on slopes
June 5, 2012
By Matt Carstens
Isabella Gomez is just a normal fourth-grader. Just your average, everyday, run-of-the-mill, bilingual, award-winning, national snowboarding champion fourth-grader.
Growing up in Minnesota, Gomez was involved in a multitude of sports, including hockey, soccer and skateboarding. Just after starting kindergarten, Isabella and her father Alex were looking for a winter sport and decided to give the slopes a try.
Despite Minneapolis’ reputation for freezing temperatures, the flat terrain isn’t ideal for skiing or snowboarding. Most of the snow is manmade and the runs consist of smaller hills.
“It’s quite amazing how many good snowboarders come from that region because there’s so much repetition,” Alex said. “There aren’t really any chairlifts, it’s all tow ropes, so they just go up and down, up, down, up, down. So the repetition gives them a lot more runs rather than going on the chairlift.”
Bringing home the hardware
After learning the ropes for a year, Isabella got her first taste of competition at age 6.
“It was the racing in slalom at the hill I rode at,” Isabella said. “It was just a little hill you rode down and got a little certificate at the end. It wasn’t as competitive, but I did that when I was like 6. So it was still good and I liked it a lot so started doing just that one once a year.”
After that, it wasn’t long before she started bringing home the hardware. Isabella won her first competition in the slope-style event, which consists of the rider performing tricks on a run filled with jumps and rails. Riders are given a score and are judged on difficulty, amplitude off jumps and variety.
Isabella also won her first half pipe event that year.
“I probably won in half pipe first because I was younger and in the younger age group there’s not really anybody for the girls,” she said. “So I was probably in half pipe the first time doing my runs and getting first place because there weren’t that many people in my age group.”
She has proved her winning ways weren’t just beginner’s luck. Isabella has won first place at the United States of America Snowboarding Association regional’s competition in Half pipe, Bordercross, Freestyle, Slalom and Giant Slalom every year for the past four years.
The need for speed
One of her favorite events is Bordercross, because of the pure speed.
“I like Bordercross a lot, it’s really fun,” she said. “Just to be with the other girls, with you going down the run pretty fast, it’s a lot of fun. I like the speed.
“I really liked it the first year at nationals, when I won in the racing because I’m a little bit faster,” she added. “So it was really exciting to win nationals in the third-place spot for the first year. It was pretty cool. “
Although she has a need for speed, she isn’t immune to getting scared.
“Sometimes when I’m going super fast, that’s when I get really scared,” she said. “But other times I like to go a little bit faster. I’ll try to go as fast as I can, but sometimes I know it’s too fast. Like in a turn I’ll slow down a little bit more and not lose all my speed, but lose some speed if I’m going too fast.”
Lack of competition
On the Web
Watch Isabella Gomez snowboard at www.youtube.com/ watch?v=JxRwWPmTGOw.
After moving to Issaquah, Isabella and Alex said they were very excited because of the proximity to actual mountains, but they were surprised by the lack of organized competition at the local passes.
“We came here thinking that it would be a lot more competitive,” Alex said. “We haven’t found that as of today. Most of the kids that want to ride, ride for fun.”
Alex said he thinks because there is so much to do on an actual mountain, kids aren’t as likely to focus on one event.
“I think because the terrain here is so diverse, that the kids just don’t want to do one thing,” he said. “They like to do a lot of things. And in Minnesota, because it’s flat, there’s nothing but jumps and rails, that’s all you’re stuck with. If you want to go snowboarding, you’re going to hit the jump 1,000 times.
“Here, you can do so many other things,” he added. “You can ride on powder, you can do a little backcountry, you can do so many different runs. We both were very surprised the kids were not competitive at all. Very few compete in national competition, kids wise.”
Isabella has placed the past three years in the USASA national competition in Colorado, including a first-place finish for Overall Rider in 2011.
Isabella is part of the Snoqualmie Competitive Team, which is starting to gain traction in the area, and she hopes to go to nationals next year as part of a sponsored team.
“That would be really cool,” she said. “So I could actually have a coach up there instead of using my memory of what I’ve learned the past few years.”
She isn’t putting any limits on her future in the sport she loves. Some of her immediate goals include landing a 540, a backflip and a frontflip, and down the line she’d love to compete in the Junior Olympics.
Isabella has achieved one of her goals recently, getting sponsored to receive free snowboards for the upcoming season from a local company called GNU Girls.
Because her dad is from Mexico and her mom is from Egypt, winter sports are relatively new to them, but they’ve embraced the snowboarding community.
“It’s more based on boys than girls, but I see that the girls are growing and the level of commitment on their part is quite impressive,” Alex said. “And I think it’s healthy for the kids. I know sometimes they get a bad rep from the skateboarders, snowboarders and wakeboarders. But I think when you come to a level of competitiveness, I think they’re serious and their good athletes.
“So we’ve been very happy that she’s chosen it for herself,” he added. “We try to expose her to other things, as much as we can, and that she can choose every year if she wants to go out for snowboarding or if she wants to do something different, and she’s still pretty sure that she wants to go snowboarding.”
Matt Carstens: 392-6434, ext. 236, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.