Bleiler savors ESPY experience
LOS ANGELES, California ” First the cover of ESPN The Magazine, now an ESPY.
It’s official: Gretchen Bleiler is the biggest name in women’s action sports.
At least, according to sports fans around the country whose votes earned the Aspen snowboarder her first ESPY at Wednesday night’s star-studded awards ceremony in Los Angeles.
“That’s a huge award,” said an elated Bleiler on Thursday, following a long night of post-awards parties. “All these athletes were there, all these football players, the Boston Celtics, so many amazing people, and just even to be nominated is an honor. To win one, it’s a huge honor.”
Bleiler won the ESPY for best female action sports athlete, topping a group of nominees that included Vail World Cup skier Lindsey Vonn and friend and fellow U.S. Snowboarding teammate Lindsey Jacobellis.
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Bleiler actually thought Jacobellis ” a repeat gold medalist in boardercross at the Winter X Games ” had won the award, before the 27-year-old heard her own name called.
“Lindsey Jacobellis was sitting right in front of me and some TV person came up and told her, ‘Make sure you stay in your seat for the next 20 minutes,'” Bleiler said.
“Because of that, I was positive that she won. A little bummed out, but happy for her. Probably 10 minutes later, it was announced. I was pretty pumped.”
Bleiler’s award announcement came between a break in filming for the TV telecast, which airs at 7 p.m. Sunday on ESPN and features pop star Justin Timberlake as the event’s master of ceremonies. The ESPY nomination came after a season in which Bleiler won the season-opening U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix and added her third Winter X Games gold medal in front of her hometown fans. She also became the first action sports female to grace the cover of ESPN The Magazine in January, and just the fourth female ever to appear on the magazine cover.
Bleiler was also nominated for an ESPY in the same category in 2006 after winning the silver medal in the halfpipe at the Olympics. Longtime halfpipe rival and friend Hannah Teter ” who took the gold in Turin ” won the award that year.
The ESPYs commemorate the most exciting moments, greatest achievements and top performances in athletics around the globe. For the fifth year in a row, the awards were determined solely by fans’ votes.
Bleiler took advantage of the trip to southern California to soak in some sun and get in some skimboarding with new friend and two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns.
Nash and Bleiler are both sponsored by a new skincare line for athletes called Mission Product and got together for an ad campaign that features Nash playing the respective sports of athletes sponsored by the brand. The point guard already played soccer with Mia Hamm, but couldn’t make it to Oregon last week ” where Bleiler was hosting a signature snowboard camp ” to take some turns with the reigning Winter X Games gold medalist.
Instead, the pair settled on skimming some waves Tuesday at Venice Beach.
Bleiler had a great time, aside from pulling a quadriceps muscle.
“I had a little limp walking the red carpet, but really, it’s fine,” Bleiler said. “It’s just so typical. I take really hard falls all the time when I’m snowboarding, yet I end up injuring myself skimboarding … with Steve Nash.”
Now that she’s got her ESPY, Bleiler is looking forward to the next big thing on her schedule: a sportscasting gig with Yahoo! Sports covering athletes at the Beijing Summer Olympics.
For the past couple of weeks, Bleiler has been criss-crossing the country attending Olympic qualifying competitions while acquainting herself with the best athletes the U.S. has to offer in swimming, gymnastics and track and field.
It’s a new role for someone typically used to being on the opposite end of microphones, and one that she is embracing.
“I went to Omaha for swimming, Philadelphia for gymnastics and Eugene [Ore.,] for track and field, just to get my feet wet and to see what these sports are about,” Bleiler said. “Doing one-on-one interviews, I don’t know how I felt about it, it’s definitely interesting. I’m literally that person yelling at Michael Phelps for an interview when he comes out of the pool.”
Bleiler said the job has even made her consider a career in broadcasting after she’s done competing.
“I don’t think I want to coach when I’m done with snowboarding,” she said. “With this, I just figured, I’ve never been to China, and I also get to go to a Summer Olympics, which I probably never would have done also. It’s definitely a great opportunity.”