Georgia Gould aims for Olympic mountain biking prize
By Julia Green
When the 2008 Olympic Games open in Beijing, China on Friday, area sports fans will have a competitor to cheer for with local connections. Georgia Gould, a granddaughter of Kingdon and Mary Gould of Dry Brook, Arkville is a member of the United States mountain biking team.
But if someone had told Georgia when she was a teenager that one day she would be an Olympic athlete, she wouldn’t have bought it.
“This was definitely not on my radar at all,” said Gould. “When I was a teenager I was smoking cigarettes. I definitely had a lifestyle change when I moved out west. I think I was kind of like, ‘There’s other stuff that I want to be doing, and this is not what I want to be doing.’ It’s funny now because whenever people I went to high school with who I haven’t seen or talked to in awhile, they’re like, ‘You’re an elite athlete?’”
Elite in the ultimate sense, in fact. Gould is one of two women to be named to the United States Olympic mountain biking team, and will be competing in the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing. Her grandparents are in China to root for Georgia.
A descendant of the legendary financier Jay Gould of Roxbury, Georgia Gould says she didn’t really get into mountain biking until she moved out west. Raised in Baltimore, MD, she relocated to Idaho in 1999 after a year of college.
“When I first moved out there I was trail running a lot. I saw a lot of people on mountain bikes and I figured, ‘I’ve got to try this. There must be something to it, because a lot of people are doing it.’”
Shortly after taking up the sport, Gould competed in her first race, a local race in Idaho.
“I entered as a beginner because I’d never done a mountain bike race. My boyfriend at the time, who is my husband now, said, ‘You should enter the sport category’ – the next one up. I said no way, but I won the race by a bunch. Then I said, ‘I guess I’ll upgrade.’”
That was the only race in which Gould competed as a beginner. In her second race she competed at the next level up, the sport category, and won again. She then upgraded to expert – the highest amateur level.
In 2004, Gould upgraded once again, this time to the pro level.
“It’s not too difficult. You just have to apply with the USA Cycling Federation and submit your race results that show you’ve won a certain amount of expert races,” she said. “Contrary to popular belief, being a pro doesn’t mean that you get paid, it just means that you can race in pro categories.”
For a few years, Gould continued to race while simultaneously working in a restaurant, which she said was difficult because at that level, there are competitors whose sole job is to race.
“You’re competing with people who don’t have to work, and you’re working to have to pay for it,” she said. “My parents were pretty supportive that year,” she added, referring to that time period as her “vagrant years,” during which she and her husband drove to all the races in a 15-passenger van with all the seats out and a futon in the back to sleep in to cut down on hotel expenses.
“After that year, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this another year,’” she admitted. “It was so hard.”
It was at the end of that year, though, that opportunity came knocking.
“My current team [Luna] contacted me and they were the top women’s team. They wanted me to come interview at the bike show in Las Vegas and they offered me a job.”
That was, subsequently, the year she won her first big race: the national championship. It was, she says, a big upset. It was also a turning point.
“That year I didn’t know if I had what it took to win the races,” she said. “But that was definitely when it was like, ‘All right, I guess I can win races.’ After that, I haven’t really put anything out of my reach, or said ‘That’s impossible,’ or ‘I can’t do that.’ I never would have thought I could win that race. But now I’m like… you never know. So now I’m saying, ‘My goal is to win the Olympics.’”
And what, exactly, would that take?
“My best day ever,” she allows. “The stars are going to have to align, and I’m going to have to be feeling great and riding smoothly. It’ll definitely take a perfect race, but I think… what better race to have your best race at? It’s definitely possible.”
Georgia is the daughter of Frank Gould of Ketchum, Idaho and Dry Brook and Susan Wilsey of Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband currently live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.