7-year-old South Tahoe snowboarder rocks junior nationals
While most girls her age were playing with dolls, chasing boys and swinging on the playground, Coral Warren was hiking the halfpipe, practicing big-air jumps and perfecting her carving.
It may have seemed like a sacrifice at the time, but hard work has definitely paid off for the 7-year-old South Tahoe girl.
Coral – in her first season of snowboarding – has become the top national amateur competitor among her peers in both freestyle and Alpine riding.
“It was really exciting,” she said of the U.S. Junior Nationals last month at Big Bear and Snow Summit in Southern California, where she placed first overall in the under 8-year-old girls division.
She has been practicing nearly every day this season at Sierra-at-Tahoe, and competing with the resort’s Hot Shots junior snowboarding team.
The team’s coach, Brady Gunsch, recognized how well she was doing and decided to bring her to the nationals.
There, he said she did better than she had all season. She not only won in slopestyle and the halfpipe – usually her best events – but pulled through on the slalom as well.
That is the accomplishment of which Coral says she is most proud.
“I was just thinking it was the competition that mattered the most,” Coral said with a shy smile, her cheeks still rosy from another day on the slopes.
“I’ve never seen anybody progress so fast,” Gunsch said. “She’s older than she really is. She puts her heart and soul into it.”
Snowboarding is Coral’s love, and it’s easy to see why.
Everyone around her – from her mother, Nikki Warren, to her aunt, Stephanie Hery – also have an affinity for the sport.
Warren home schools her daughter to make more time in the day for riding. She said she will encourage and support Coral in whatever she wants to do.
“The biggest thing I’m proud of her for is how hard she’s tried,” Warren said. “Whether she won or lost, she had a great attitude all year long. She has way more inner strength than I could ever have, and just pushes so hard.”
Determined to one day be a world champion snowboarder, Coral has hit the mountain 40 days so far this season – equal to almost six weeks of non-stop riding.
What keeps her going?
“You feel like you’re free when you’re up in the air. It’s really fun,” Coral said. “And when you’re in powder, it’s like you’re riding on the clouds.”
Her favorite thing to ride, aside from the trees on powder days, is the halfpipe.
“Because sometimes I can get out of the pipe, and when you get out of the pipe it feels like you’re flying,” she said. “And I can do an alley-oop.”
While Coral picked up snowboarding very quickly – after about three days of doing it – she said the first day was horrible.
“It was really hard – I kept saying ‘I hate this, I wanna go home.'”
But her dedication, patience and natural athletic ability have, only five months later, earned her three first-place trophies, a new snowboard and sponsors including Airwalk, Burton, Precision Auto Body and Stardust clothing.
Coral’s young snowboarding career has just begun. Next year, she plans to continue participating in Sierra’s snowboard team and training for her ultimate dream – the Olympic Games.
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