The Crippler. That's the name of snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler's signature halfpipe trick and, yes, it looks as frightening as it sounds. The move involves twists, flips, turns and all sorts of crazy—though it's just not good enough for Bleiler. Come Vancouver, the 28-year-old champ says she hopes to nail a "frontside 1080 or a combination of a Crippler 720 into a Cab 720." Yet make no mistake: This athlete isn't all jock. She wore a girly Angelina gown at her wedding last summer, and she's in the midst of designing her fourth namesake collection for Oakley. The garb includes super-techy jackets, board pants and goggles but there's also some super-trendy items in the mix, like an embroidered trucker hat and a slouchy bag dubbed "The Hotness."
Your signature trick is called the Crippler 540, but now you've upped that to the Crippler 720. What on earth?
Yeah, so in the half pipe you have a front side wall and a back side wall and the Crippler is done on the front side wall. A Crippler 540 is one and a half rotations while doing a back flip and then a Crippler 720 is two rotations, while doing a back flip, and you land with your opposite side forward.
That sounds terrifying. How many bones have you broken?
None. I've landed on my shoulders a lot of times, and separated them and stretched the capsule. I've torn my ACL in my right knee; that took me out for an entire season. I've had a concussion, but that was actually a long time ago.
So let's just pretend that I wanted to try to ride the half pipe like you. What's rule number one?
Bending your knees is really important. When you're in tougher conditions like ice or it's hard to see, I think everyone's natural reaction is to do the exact opposite of what we should do, which is stand up straight. But that's just not a very aggressive or balanced position.
You're one of a group of athletes who've teamed up with the company Mission Skincare. What's your favorite product in the line?
We have so many awesome products. The sunscreen has anti-sting technology, so when you're walking up the half pipe and sweating, it's not going to drip into your eyes.
What will you be wearing at the Olympics?
We have to wear uniforms, which are designed by Burton. I haven't seen them yet, but I heard the pants are a denim look and the jackets—I've actually heard two different things—either a letterman jacket or like a motorcycle jacket. It's sort of all preppy with plaid, so we'll see what it looks like.
I mean, generally Burton does a pretty good job, so I think it will be fine, but obviously, I would love to wear my own stuff at the Olympics.
Previously: Five minutes with speedskater Katherine Reutter
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Bleiler portrait by Cole Barash