Big air, big awards
April 16, 2013
By Joe Grove
Snowboarder, 11, wows the crowds at nationals
Isabella Gomez, 11-year-old fifth-grader at Puesta del Sol Spanish Immersion School, Bellevue, and an Issaquah resident, took first place overall at the United States of America Snowboard Association’s 24th annual nationals March 30 to April 4.
Isabella, the daughter of Alejandro and Amani Gomez, participated in all five events in her age group (10- and 11-year-olds), placing second in the half pipe, second in the giant slalom, third in the slope style, fourth in slalom and fifth in border cross. Because she placed in all five categories, she scored the highest overall.
This was Isabella’s fourth trip to nationals, held this year at Copper Mountain, Colo. She placed second overall last year and first overall in 2011.
She said many girls don’t compete in all five categories, netting them a zero in those they don’t compete in.
Alejandro said they want the girls to be well-rounded in the sport, but there are those who only want to do the pipe.
“We want her to be well-rounded,” he said.
The family moved here two years ago from Minnesota, where Isabella got her start at snowboarding as a kindergartener.
She said she was given a flyer at school about snowboarding and took it home and told her parents she wanted to do it.
Alejandro was a skier and told her she was too small to snowboard and had to learn to ski first. He agreed to take her to the meeting publicized on the flyer. He said he asked the director of the program, “Can you please tell her that she is too little and she needs to ski?”
He said the director asked Isabella, “Do you want to ski?” She said no. The director asked, “Do you want to snowboard?” Isabella said yes. The director replied, “OK, you sign up and you’re in.”
Alejandro said he didn’t really know why the emphasis on snowboarding.
“I was a skier, but when she picked up snowboarding, I started snowboarding, too,” he said. “This is my third year of snowboarding, and I’ll never go back to skiing.”
Isabella began competing locally in Minnesota almost as soon as she started snowboarding, and she has gone to nationals for the past four seasons.
“It is more free than skiing,” she said. “Skiing is more particular, and snowboarding has less rules.”
She said she has two goals. The first is to do a 360-degree spin, which she is 90 percent toward accomplishing. The second is to do a backflip, which she will work on this summer when the family goes to the High Cascades at Mount Hood. There is year-round snow there and the resort has an airbag for those learning to do backflips.
Isabella’s obsession with snowboarding and her desire to compete takes a lot of practice, so you can find her on the slopes at Snoqualmie almost every weekend during the winter season and on Wednesdays because school gets out early that day. She competes with the Snoqualmie team, where she gets two or three personal sessions with the coach at the beginning of the season, and then it is practice, practice, practice.
The preparation continues during the summer with soccer, skateboarding and trampoline workouts, to work on backflips, and a trip to the High Cascades.
Isabella said there are 30 to 40 girls involved in her age group at nationals.
The competition begins with time trials, which Isabella dislikes, “because if you fall, you get one of the lowest time trials and you could be out. There is elimination with the time trials, and it is always the worry of falling.”
The snowboarders compete against each other, following the time trials.
“There is a strike gate and the course has berms, sometimes jumps, tabletops and rollers,” Gomez said while describing border cross. “It can be a long course or a short course, and the first one past the finish wins. A long course might be like a minute and 30 seconds.”
Isabella and Alejandro are joined in their snowboarding love by her 8-year-old sister Sophia, while Amani doesn’t participate in snow sports. Isabella said Sophia rides for the fun and doesn’t seem to get into the competitive aspect of the sport.
Even though Isabella is good at snowboarding, school still comes first and she maintains straight As. Alejandro said he tells her at the beginning of the year that if her grades drop, snowboarding is over.
Isabella is sponsored by Snoqualmie Resort and competes with the Snoqualmie team. She is also sponsored by Gnu Snowboards, Snowboard Connections of Seattle and Arnette Goggles.