Age isn’t a border for USASA competitors
It’s no surprise snowboarding’s big among the older kids, but what is surprising is these older kids pushing themselves down boardercross courses are pushing 40 and 50.
“Most of my friends think I’m absolutely insane,” said Stateline’s Dr. Tom Goldenberg, who, at 47 years, was one of the oldest kids competing in the USASA South Shore Snowboard Series, and a qualifier for the legend division of this year’s USASA National Championships later this month at Waterville Valley, N.H.
So maybe Adam Neal’s age of 36 makes the “boardercross beard” he started growing after a win at Kirkwood less intimidating than if it was on, say, the 13-year-old lined up in the next start gate. He’s keeping it for nationals, where he’ll join Goldenberg, South Shore series director/competitor Donna Vano and series regular Dick Schulze of Palo Alto, Calif.
“You need every little advantage,” Neal said. “What it takes away in speed, it makes up for in intimidation.”
Both boarders have competed throughout the South Shore Series season at Sierra-at-Tahoe, Heavenly Ski Resort and Kirkwood Mountain Resort as one of a handful of riders – or in some cases one of one – in their age divisions. Maybe the most important thing for the far-from-stacked upper age groups in the South Shore series is their competitors are having fun and pushing themselves. Still, that didn’t stop Goldenberg’s son Will – a standout for the Heavenly Ski Foundation snowboard team – from putting his dad’s wins into perspective.
“I like to think I came in first,” Goldenberg said. “My son reminds me I’m also coming in last.”
And both Goldenberg and Neal anticipate the level of competition will pick up in New Hampshire. Both qualified for nationals in boardercross, slalom and giant slalom, but eschew halfpipe and slopestyle competitions for the more ground-bound disciplines of the sport. (“We’re not jibbers,” said Neal’s wife, Linda.)
But Vano, who will defend six national championships, including the overall title for female riders between the ages of 40 and 49, is a self-described jibber. While the South Shore series often left Vano alone in her category, that won’t be the case when she gets to New Hampshire.
“It’s so much fun to be with women who have the same interest as me,” said Vano, 46, a qualifier in what she called the 40-year-old whippersnappers division. Unlike the other riders from South Shore, Vano won’t stay on the ground in New Hampshire. She’s in the competition for the air.
“I may not get much, but what I get is a good little rush,” Vano said.
Vano may bring more to the tabletops than she lets on, though. She rides for Burton Snowboards, and recently took a vacation with North Shore rider Cara Beth Burnside and fellow pros Shannon Dunn and Tara Dakides at Mammoth, Calif. They have been coaching Vano in preparation for Waterville Valley.
“I have a big advantage in that I get to chase those kinds of women around the mountain,” she said.
“I truly want it – all niceness put aside,” Vano said. “I’m going to try to not let those ladies get the best of me. Most of all, I want to be standing on that podium with a medal around my neck.”
The humility belies a fierce competitiveness. The same goes with the other two older South Shore riders heading to nationals.
“My competition is going to be stiff, and I expect to be schooled, but I know I’m going to be right in there, too,” Neal said.
“I also feel like there’s some guys out there who are really good, so it may be a little bit of a humbling experience,” he said. “If I can come home without an injury, I’ll be happy.”
But the South Shore series shows competition doesn’t have to stop when an athlete reaches 30 – or, in the case of Goldenberg, 40, or of Schulze, 50. Neal, has been snowboarding since his sister bought him his first “little cheesy plastic snowboard” in 1988.
“I just got hooked,” he said.
After a couple of years hiatus to concentrate his efforts on work and his family, he started competing again. Goldenberg has been skiing since the 1960s, and still does. When his children started surfing and wakeboarding, Goldenberg said he fit right in. As such, it’s a family affair for both the Goldenberg and Neal families. Goldenberg’s whole family, including wife Taby, and two sons and a daughter. Neal has twin 5-year-old proteges at home, too, in his sons.
So, as all three South Shore boarders have families at home and careers off the mountain, maybe they won’t leave them behind to follow the World Cup around the world’s halfpipes and snowboard cross courses. But, as all three have shown, you never can tell by looking. Goldenberg left the possibility hanging like a 50-50 on a halfpipe lip:
“If our day jobs aren’t working out “
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