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The Olympics always draw attention to the wealth of athletic talent across the globe. Viewers see athletes as young as 15 years old catapulting off ramps, rocketing down steep slopes and flying across ice. Not too long ago, many of these athletes were beginners, adolescent snowboarders nailing together makeshift obstacles in their backyards. With years of practice and dedication they became rising stars.
Nine-year-old Los Alamos resident Cade Van Etten is an up-and-comer, too. Underneath his red hair, smattering of freckles and big blue eyes lies a tough young man who has been snowboarding since he was 3 1/2 years old.
For the third year in a row, Van Etten will be competing against dozens of other boarders in the USASA Southwest Freeride series, which is a national snowboarding and skiing competition that will take place in Copper Mountain, Colo., from March 28 to April 8.
Van Etten will participate in the slopestyle category, which features a downhill course with a series of jumps up to six feet high, and the rail jam competition, which contains various sets of rails that snowboarders must slide on.
Van Etten has participated in numerous competitions since he was seven years old, racking up multiple first and second place awards. He is raising money to pay for his trip to the Copper Mountain competition. Anyone wishing to donate money or see a video of him ruling the slopes may visit gofundme.com/6oidwc.
“My favorite part of snowboarding is just getting out to ride,” Van Etten said.
He has taken a few snowboarding lessons, but learned to board mainly from his father.
Currently Van Etten knows how to do rail tricks, board grabs and 180 degree turns, and he is working his way toward being able to execute a backflip.
Van Etten practices flips on his trampoline with a foam tramp board and travels almost every weekend to a ski area. He occasionally signs up to participate in gravity parks, which are non-snow obstacle courses that allow boarders to safely practice their tricks with the support of foam or air bag landing areas. He also will take a parkour course, which focuses on climbing and jumping to and from various urban obstacles.
Van Etten aspires to become a professional snowboarder, and to eventually compete in the slopestyle and halfpipe categories of the Winter Olympics.
The first key step in his goal? His attitude. “Don’t get discouraged, because if you do, that’s a bad thing to do. Be happy. Have a good run. And just have fun,” Van Etten said.