Pin it Gretchen Bleiler
“I love to push myself and push past my fears and snowboarding is the vehicle that’s allowed me to do that for so long.”

Career highlights

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2003

Subtitle

Gretchen Wins First X Games Gold Medal

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2005

Subtitle

Gretchen Becomes the U.S. Open Halfpipe Champ

Title

2006

Subtitle

At First Olympics, Gretchen Wins Silver
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Gretchen Bleiler

Career highlights

Title

2003

Subtitle

Gretchen Wins First X Games Gold Medal
2003 was a good year for Gretchen! She snagged gold in the halfpipe event at the Winter X Games, and she also won eight straight competitions, winning the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships and the Overall Grand Prix Title (the five-stop series of competitions that's used to determine the rosters of Olympic teams). She was also one of just four women invited to compete at the 2003 Artic Challenge, an elite invitation-only competition hosted by the World Federation of Snowboarding.

Title

2005

Subtitle

Gretchen Becomes the U.S. Open Halfpipe Champ
Although her 2005 season started off on a rocky note (Gretchen tore her ACL early on in the season), she rallied to recover and dominated the U.S. Open's halfpipe event. She also won the 2005 Winter X Games superpipe championship.

Title

2006

Subtitle

At First Olympics, Gretchen Wins Silver
Bleiler, who had missed qualifying for the 2002 Olympics (because of a tiebreaker), wins silver in the women's halfpipe event at her first Olympic Games in Torino, Italy.

Title

2010

Subtitle

Gretchen Earns Second X Games Halfpipe Gold Medal
Gretchen has one of the best runs of her life at the 2010 Winter X Games, winning the halfpipe event and reminding people why she'll go down as one of the best snowboarders in history.

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2010

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Winter Olympics Halfpipe Finalist
Bleiler went into the Vancouver Olympics as the favorite. However, she ended up falling on both her final runs. Ultimately, she took 11th place in the women's halfpipe at the 2010 Winter Games.

Gretchen Bleiler can tell you that a lot can happen in a split second. In a second, you can be flying high in the air (literally), only to be pulled back down to earth hard and in the most gruesome of ways. In a split second, everything can change.
 
As far as nearly career-ending accidents go, Gretchen Bleiler's was a doozy. In an attempt to complete a double backflip move on a practice trampoline, the seasoned snowboarding veteran and three-time Olympian over-rotated, sending her knee flying into her face. Almost before anyone could draw their breath, Bleiler was being whisked away in an ambulance to treat a shattered eye socket, broken nose, vertigo, and a split eyebrow. Oh, and a concussion.
 
The accident had far-reaching consequences: In addition to a year-long recovery process, Bleiler still suffers double vision to this day—something the doctors admit she may never fully recover from.
 
While Gretchen says it took her about a year to feel fully comfortable on a snowboard again, and that there was a brief moment she considered hanging up her boots and bidding goodbye to the sport forever, the moment passed very quickly, she told SHAPE. The real issue? Reconciling with her new perspective on life and sports.  
 
“I was told I might have double vision for the rest of my life, and for me as an athlete, that just didn’t make any sense,” she says. “I was used to working hard and accomplishing my goals, and it just seemed crazy to me that there was nothing that I could do to fix this situation.”
 
Bleiler became even more frustrated her first few times back on the mountain. “I just kept saying, ‘OK, my vision is back, I should be able to pick up where I left off,’ and that wasn’t the case.”
 
The more Bleiler fought to regain her strength and skills, the clearer it became that she had to step back and assess the situation differently.
 
But ultimately, her injury taught her to be “humble,” she says. “This accident was a huge setback—it took me back to zero,” she says. “I was riding at a really high level right before the accident. Now, I’m like, ‘OK, this is a clean slate. I’m starting over.’ I know what I’m capable of, but I can’t compare myself to who I was before.”
 
Although Gretchen may see herself as starting over, others view her as back in the game: Bleiler finished 3rd in the halfpipe in the New Zealand winter games, and most consider her a strong contender for one of the four positions on the female U.S. Olympic Snowboarding Team.
 
Regardless of whether Bleiler wins Olympic gold this year or makes the trek to Russia at all, the superstar snowboarder is confident that this isn’t the end.
 
“I’m going to keep doing this because I love it,” she says. “There’s so much more I want to give to the sport.”  —Alanna Nuñez

Featured video

Gretchen Bleiler: "Enjoy the Journey"
Gretchen Bleiler on the Olympics, injury, and being in the moment

Trivia

Favorite getaway
"I love to surf in Nicaragua," Gretchen says. "I love the pace of life, and it's gorgeous."
Girl power
Gretchen co-created the Snow Angels Invitational, the first all-female halfpipe competition.
Must-have gear
Oakley Signature Series A Frame goggles. “Their high-definition lenses give me a clear view, even in blizzards,” she says.
Go-to exercise
The supine windmill, a core move that involves holding a stability ball between legs while laying on floor and rotating legs to each side.