Fisher steals night from White
ASPEN ” No asterisk necessary.
When Breckenridge local Steve Fisher won his first Winter X Games superpipe gold three years ago, the reigning champ, Shaun White, was noticeably absent.
On Sunday night at Buttermilk, no one could miss White in the pipe, but it was Fisher who was unbeatable ” thwarting White’s quest for a record seventh Winter X Games gold. Even sweeter, Fisher won his second gold in four years with his first-run score of 92 points, meaning White had three chances to knock him off.
“The people were always saying I wouldn’t have won if he was in it,” said Fisher, who originally hails from Minnesota ” also home to bronze medalist Mason Aguirre. “It’s definitely nice coming back.”
From the bottom, that is. A year after he won his first gold, Fisher returned to Buttermilk and finished dead last in the pipe qualifier. The following year, after so-so season-opening results, he didn’t get an invite to the Winter X Games until the week before the event, and just missed the cut for the final.
“That was pretty bitter for me last year, and I think that was part of the reason why I did so poorly,” said Fisher. “The year before in ’05, the pressure definitely got to me and I couldn’t perform. Last year, I was really burnt because I wasn’t invited until maybe a week before, but, you know, here I am, I did it. I’m back.”
Then a pause for effect.
Flying Tomato grounded
White, the top qualifier from Saturday and, as always, the favorite, was obviously upset after a slight bobble on his final run. Not upset simply because Fisher won, but because he felt he could have beaten him ” and failed to deliver.
“The great news is that I’m going to be so angry for next year,” said White, who didn’t lose a single halfpipe contest last winter, including the Olympic final. “I felt prepared. It was to the point where I had a sketch, and that’s what kept me from the gold.”
Fisher, the No. 2 qualifier, jumped into the lead with a near-flawless first run. He opened with a huge straight air then linked together a backside 540, a frontside 1080, a cab 720 with a stale-fish grab, a frontside 900, then a backside 900 and a frontside 720.
“A lot of spins,” Fisher said, smiling.
White fell twice on his opening run, but then rebounded during his second trip down the pipe with clean back-to-back 900s, a stylish McTwist, then back-to-back 1080s ” good for 91 points.
Fisher failed to top his 92 on his final run, leaving the door open for White to grab the spotlight ” and spin his way into history.
But just like the day before, when he stumbled slightly in the slopestyle final and settled for bronze, the usually unflappable White faltered. He landed low on the wall of the pipe on the McTwist, lost some speed and ended up with a score of 88.
“I like it when I just get beat,” White said. “It’s hard when you have it right there and you kind of slip it a little. You know what I mean? Just from being an athlete, it’s one of those things where you know you have it and something just didn’t work out right. That happens. It’s hard to win everything every time.”
When asked about the elusive seventh Winter X gold, White laughed, then said, “Oh man, I’ve got a couple more years. I think I might get that.”
Aguirre, the superpipe silver medalist last year, spun back-to-back 900s and back-to-back 1080s in his second run for a score of 90.66 ” just .33 points behind White.
“It’s a step down, but not really,” Aguirre said. “I feel that the riding this year was super. This year, I think the level was a lot higher.”
The top riders in Sunday’s final were separated by only four points.
Vermont’s Kevin Pearce finished fourth with a score of 89.66 and Danny Kass ” a two-time Olympic silver medalist ” was fifth an 89.
Breckenridge local Chad Otterstrom rode well in all three of his runs Sunday, but fell at the end of each and finished 10th.
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