Elena Hight golden in X Games superpipe
X Games wasn’t necessarily an Aspen thing the first time Elena Hight competed in the event. It was 2004, and the winter sports spectacle was only in its third season in Aspen after skipping to resorts around the country for its first seven years.
Hight was one of the young, up-and-coming athletes in women’s halfpipe then, and she went from that X Games start to a sport-expanding career, pushing the envelope in halfpipe in style and, especially, in tricks.
She accomplished plenty, including representing the United States in two Winter Olympics and winning four X Games medals.
She never won gold at the X Games, however, not until Saturday.
Hight, 27, from South Lake Tahoe, California, said she’s endured a few rough seasons but enjoyed watching as a wave of new, young and talented snowboarders, like Chloe Kim, have overtaken the sport.
“They’re rad,” she said.
She also said it’s rad to show them the ropes and, occasionally, beat them in the pipe. Saturday was a very radical kind of night for Hight, as she shocked the gathered crowd in Aspen to win her first X Games gold medal.
She scored in at 87.33 to win the night.
“I am so beyond stoked,” she said. “I have been coming here for 14 years, and winning an X Games gold medal has always been one of my dreams. For it to go my way tonight is absolutely unbelievable.
“I’ve had a lot of really great successes in my career, and I’ve been able to push the sport in a lot of ways, but a gold medal here was definitely something that was missing.”
Riders all weekend have struggled to land runs in the X Games pipe, and that proved true again Saturday in the weekend’s final superpipe event. Kim, the three-time reigning gold medalist, did put down one run, but only scored an 81.00, which left her in third.
Chinese rider Xuetong Cai was second with a run of 85.00.
Seven-time X Games champ Kelly Clark struggled on the one run she landed to finish with a score of 72.66, putting her in fourth plsce. Steamboat’s Arielle Gold, coming off a strong second-place finish at an event in Switzerland and the defending X Games silver medalist, couldn’t land either of her runs and finished sixth.
They were upset not to win themselves, of course, but they had a soft spot for the woman who did.
“I’m so proud of that girl,” Clark said. “We all go through ups and downs in our careers. I love seeing her on an upswing.
“This is really good for the sport. I love showing up for contest where anyone can be on the podium, any of the eight women.”