I first met Gretchen Bleiler at a training camp for up-and-coming young athletes put on by the U.S. snowboarding team. These days they’re called Project Gold, but back then it was just rookie camp or something. When Gretchen and I went for the first time, she had just turned 18 and I was only 16, and that two years made a big difference. She had total freedom to leave, go to town, or stay out past curfew. Meanwhile, we underage kids were under lock and key. We were all eyeing her with total envy -- and a little intimidation.
At that summer camp, we did well enough that we were both invited to be a part of the U.S. B team. Our first team trip was in November at Mammoth Mountain, so Gretchen and I flew to Reno, Nevada, to meet up with the rest of the team at the airport.
We had a three-hour drive to Mammoth from the Reno airport, so we all decided to stop for sushi. Gretchen and I had forgotten our wallets in the car, so we went back to the team van to get them. Next thing you know, we managed to lock the rental car keys in the van -- classic rookie maneuver. There we were, maybe 10 minutes into our first trip with the U.S. national team, and we look like complete idiots.
Up until then, Gretchen and I hadn’t known what to think of each other, but we decided to take the fall together and we have been friends ever since. We went back into the sushi place and told the team what happened, and luckily we were only a few minutes from the airport and we could go back to the rental car place and get another key made.
An hour or so later it was like it never happened ... apart from the constant reminders from the rest of the team -- and many smart comments making fun of us.
That was almost 15 years ago, and now we have traveled the world, been through a few Olympics and countless X Games and other events. I was in her wedding and we even go on yearly vacations together. I love how things work out.
The best part, though? She claims to not even remember the rental car incident. I guess it must have scarred me more than her.