Pipe perfection for Shaun White
Ryan Summerlin January 30, 2012
ASPEN – He’s been called innovative. Awe-inspiring. Iconic.
On Sunday night at Buttermilk, Shaun White was perfect.
The Carlsbad, Calif., product long ago affirmed his snowboard superpipe dominance with an otherworldly blend of amplitude, style and creativity. On a night when history was on the line, White once again proved he has no equal.
He had victory – and a record 12th Winter X gold – already secured, but the 25-year-old decided to put on one last show to close out these games. He did so in compelling fashion: In his near-flawless third run – ESPN commentator Keir Dillon deemed it the best the sport had ever seen – White boosted more than 18 feet out of the pipe on the first hit and then linked a double McTwist 1260 with a frontside double-corked 1260 for the first time ever.
The man in the animal-print pants generated roars from a raucous crowd and a perfect score of 100 from the judges.
“You know what’s bizarre is I was at the top and my coach was actually saying, ‘They’re going to give you a 100 if you make it,'” said White, sporting a fresh black eye he sustained after drilling a pipe wall in his second run. “I just came through it, and everything was feeling perfect.”
White appeared to show no ill effects from a nagging ankle sprain that forced him to withdraw from the slopestyle. The man dressed like a rock-band frontman took to his sport’s grandest stage with a flourish Sunday, setting the early pace with a first-run 94.
“I was taking some anti-inflammatories trying to get it back in gear,” White said. “The tough part about the ankle is that you’re always on it – there’s nothing you can really do. I was just resting it. It was a tough decision to drop out of slopestyle last minute, but I’m glad that I did. I was able to do what I did in the pipe because of it.”
Count Swiss competitor Iouri Podladtchikov among those impressed.
“Shaun’s run was amazing,” the 23-year-old said. “Yeah, that’s the word, I guess.”
Podladtchikov was the lone competitor pushing White on this night, posting scores of 92 and 93 on his second and third runs down the 567-foot pipe with a combination of tricks that included a backside double-corked McTwist, a double-corked 1260 and back-to-back double-corked 1080s.
Afterward, Podladtchikov was left lamenting a last-second decision not to throw his new trick – a switch backside double-corked 1260.
“I’ve got to explain myself there,” joked Podladtchikov, who finished second to White in 2010, missed last year’s competition because of injury and wound up seven points ahead of bronze medalist Ryo Aono, of Japan, on Sunday. “That (final) hit wasn’t really nice to me. I kept landing flat, and the switch airs didn’t work out the way they should have. I didn’t have enough juice today. I’ve got to apologize for that. That’ll come real soon.”
White attempted to up the ante on his second run and wound up under-rotating on his final hit and sliding down one wall of the pipe.
Despite having locked up the win – joining Nate Holland (boardercross) and Tucker Hibbert (snocross) as the only Winter X athletes to complete five-peats in the process – the choice to go for it in Run 3 was obvious, White said.
“For me, it wasn’t complete until I landed that run,” he said. “It felt like I was at the Olympics again. I was standing up there with the win, and I felt like I had some more to do still.”
He accomplished that and more in his final trip down the pipe, topping his previous best score of 97.33 set in both 2010 and 2011.
“I have been to many X Games now,” White said. “I will forever remember this – getting that perfect score.”