Crazy tricks and courage define Reinhard
Rachel Reinhard didn't know what to do. Her left ankle had already ballooned to twice its normal size. Her leg was tingling with pain.
She was only two hours away from competing in one of the biggest skateboarding contests in the world and didn't want to hear what the medic running toward her had to say.
It can't end like this, Reinhard thought to herself while hobbling off the floor at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Moments earlier, Reinhard was grinding rails and jumping down stairs while going through her warm-up session on the street course at July's Maloof Money Cup. But while she was tying to complete a frontside boardslide down a rail, Reinhard's left foot slipped over the front of her board and her ankle twisted backward as she landed.
Reinhard was all of a sudden dangerously close to being out of the running for the biggest purse in skateboarding history ($450,000 was up for grabs during the three-day event).
"I was so disappointed," says Reinhard, a senior at Doherty (Colorado Springs, Colo.). "I couldn't believe that happened right before the contest."
When the medic examined Reinhard, he felt torn ligaments in her ankle. Prognosis: severely sprained ankle. But Reinhard wasn't missing the event for anything.
So the medic tightly wrapped her ankle, and Reinhard was back to ripping up the street course two hours later. She gritted her teeth through two rounds while completing a multitude of tricks, none more painful or impressive than her kick flip down a flight of 16 stairs.
"I just skated through the pain and didn't worry about it," says Reinhard. "I tried tricks that I probably shouldn't have with an injured ankle, but it was worth it."
It sure was.
Reinhard finished second, pocketing a check for $8,000 (the money was quickly spent on a car). Along the way, she beat some of the best female skaters in the world, including X Games gold medalist Vanessa Torres.
Not bad considering Reinhard did it on one ankle.
For Reinhard, skating and pain are intertwined. While becoming one of the world's best female skaters, she's endured a dislocated elbow and stitches in her chin, not to mention periodic knee pain from constant impact.
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But all that pain doesn't compare to the exuberance she feels competing on the professional circuit.
"I think it's crazy that I'm at that level right now," says Reinhard, who turned pro in 2007 and is sponsored by etnies, BC Surf & Sport and Plan B Skateboards. "Skating with the pros and beating them is just ridiculous. I'm just some girl from Colorado who's just as good as them."
Reinhard proved that in October when she won her first pro event, the street jam final at the etnies Goofy Versus Regular event.
"I really wanted it, so I had to skate extra hard and try more stuff that I wouldn't usually try -- like harder tricks," Reinhard says. "I felt like I skated the best at that contest."
She'll need a repeat performance to have similar success at the granddaddy of all skateboarding events, the X Games. Reinhard got her first X Games invite this past summer and soaked in the experience while making a few new friends.
After finishing fourth in the women's skate street finals - first among high school contenders -- Reinhard returned to the stands to hang with friends and family and watch the rest of the action.
Unbeknownst to Reinhard, she had made some new fans with her impressive arsenal of tricks. One by one, fans approached her in the stands to request pictures and autographs.
Reinhard obliged each request even though she estimates the crowd got 50 deep.
"It was really crazy because I don't think I'm famous," says Reinhard, who after graduating from Doherty this spring will study at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in addition to skating professionally. "But it's way cool that they wanted my autograph."
Once upon a time, Reinhard struggled to find skate partners, let alone signature seekers.
When she was 11 years old, Reinhard learned to skate so she could hang out with her older brother, Michael, and his friends. Things were smooth for a while, but they quickly changed.
"At first they didn't mind me skating until I started getting better than them," she jokes. "They all quit anyway."
That's what makes Reinhard so good: She never quits. Even when all her skating partners stop skating and she's all alone on the street.
While some skaters try a trick a few times and give up if they can't master it right away, Reinhard doesn't stop practicing. Lately, she's been focusing on a 360 kick flip. While she's landed the trick plenty of times, Reinhard has yet to perfect it.
"Practicing every day is really important; otherwise your tricks get sketchy," she says. "If you take days off, you're not getting better."
One person who has witnessed Reinhard's evolution on the pro skating tour is etnies team manager Laura Lynn Murphy. Murphy first saw Reinhard skate as an amateur less than two years ago and thought she would make an immediate impact on the pro circuit.
"Her style is so versatile," Murphy says. "She can kind of do everything, which I think gives her an advantage on the other girls right now. She hasn't been skating pro as long as some of these others girls, but I think she's figured out how a competition works. She knows what judges are looking for."
While winning over judges hasn't been too tough, being the new girl on the pro tour has been somewhat challenging.
"I think that it's cool," Reinhard says. "But all the pros are already friends with each other so I'm kind of on my own."
Of course, she's used to that. That's how it was when she was lying on the ground at the Maloof Money Cup, grabbing her injured ankle. Even as the medic wrapped her up, Reinhard was alone in thought, determined not to let anything stop her from competing.
Especially a sprained ankle.
Brian Giuffra covers high school sports for ESPN RISE.
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