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Hollingsworth's tricks revolutionizing women's snowboarding

5/6/2009

Stratton Mountain School (Stratton Mountain,
Vt.) senior Ellery Hollingsworth's
brothers used to tell her to get out of
their way -- at least when it came to
snowboarding. They didn't want their little
sister tagging along.

Now they don't want to ride without her.
That's because Hollingsworth isn't just
any little sister. At 17, she's the youngest
member of the U.S. Snowboarding pro
halfpipe team and a strong candidate to
medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"She is probably the best all-around rider
we have," says U.S. Snowboarding assistant
halfpipe coach Ricky Bower, a former world
champion. "She has an ability to set her mind
on her goal and go for it in a way that is
smart -- not just trying the same thing over
and over again and getting frustrated. She's
very methodical."

But don't mistake methodical for boring.
Sponsored by the likes of Nike 6.0 and Oakley,
Hollingsworth has the kind of ability that
shatters gender stereotypes. As a 15-year-old,
she became the first female to land a backside
900 on a quarterpipe during competition.

"With women's snowboarding, it's pretty
much limitless right now," she says. "But that's
all part of it -- to keep pushing the sport. The
guys are pushing it every day and so are the
women, but we need to push it even more."

Hollingsworth showed signs she would
one day push boundaries even as a 6-year-old
when she started riding at Bromley Mountain
in Vermont with older brothers Kyle, now 22,
and Jeb, now 23.

By the time she was in eighth grade, she
was at Stratton Mountain, a boarding school
for winter-sports athletes. She's been drawing
attention ever since.

Hollingsworth's true breakout season came
in 2008. She placed in two of the three legs of
the U.S. Grand Prix, a major snowboarding
competition that's seen as a precursor to the
Olympics. Her best finish was second place at
the Killington, Vt., event.

Hollingsworth was also invited to her first
X Games last year, where she missed qualifying
for the superpipe finals by just one spot.

"I stepped up from being one of the
younger competitors," Hollingsworth says. "I
wanted to be seen as a fellow professional
snowboarder instead of an amateur."

Next up for Hollingsworth's pro career is
the 2008 Winter Dew Tour, a new three-part
pro event that's an extension of the Dew Tour,
the leading pro circuit for skateboarding,
BMX and motocross.

Even though a $1.5 million purse is up for
grabs, Hollingsworth won't let anything alter
her approach at the Winter Dew Tour.

"She just loves to ride and that's apparent
in how she rides and the way she approaches
learning new skills," says Bower, who thinks
Hollingsworth is capable of winning a medal
at the 2010 Olympics. "For her, it's not work.
It's going out there and having fun."

In late 2008, Hollingsworth applied to
colleges. She wants to study international
relations, but only after taking a year's break
between high school and college to prepare
for the Olympics.

"I think that she's going to be doing some
really great things here in the next few years,"
Bower says.

With our without her brothers.

Jen A. Miller covers high school sports for ESPN RISE GIRL Magazine.