Shaun White, Chloe Kim top semifinals at Burton US Open in Vail
VAIL — We may not see much of Shaun White in competition these days, but when he does make an appearance, he puts on quite a show.
Landing the two highest scored halfpipe runs of the day at the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships semifinals on Thursday, White qualified for Saturday’s finals with authority. He said the competition was tough this year.
“Seeing someone else at the competition do something that I want to do, that really motivates,” White told CBS4 Denver during the event. “I can’t get that motivation anywhere else, outside of competition.”
And White’s main competition for the win is already out of the way, as Japan’s Ayumu Hirano failed to make finals.
“I look forward to this event always,” White said. “I’m just glad to see it’s so nice,”
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Competing against 30 other snowboarders in a best of two-run show, White’s runs were both scored in the 90s on a 100-point scale, with judges evaluating amplitude, trick difficulty, execution and overall impression. The only other rider on the men’s side to score in the 90s was Japan’s Raibu Katayama, who finished second Thursday.
On the women’s side, 15-year-old snowboarding sensation Chloe Kim landed a clean run on her first attempt, going big and inverted and landing back-to-back 720s. Her score, a 94.25, was not topped on the day for men or women.
Kim has won four of the last four halfpipe competitions she has entered.
“It’s been so great making so many new fans at each competition,” she said. “I’m definitely going to try to make it five for five.”
China’s Xuetong Cai finished second for the women, followed by Americans Hannah Teter, Kelly Clark, Arielle Gold and Elena Hight, who all headed to Saturday’s finals.
DAVIS MAKES FINALS
Third on the men’s side was Ben Ferguson, who won the semifinals at last year’s Burton U.S. Open before failing to make the podium in finals. Ferguson is coming off the best finish of his career at X Games Aspen where he took a first-ever podium, finishing second.
“I’m sending it. It was fun,” he told reporter Henry Jackson. “Super good pipe, and we got good weather today which always makes it fun.”
To get the win on Saturday, “I’ll pretty much have to do my hardest run,” Ferguson said.
Fans will get to watch crowd favorite Danny Davis take three more runs in the halfpipe this year. Known as your favorite snowboarder’s favorite snowboarder, Davis failed to make finals at last year’s Open. He finished sixth out of 30 on the day, with the top 10 qualifying through to Saturday’s finals.
“There was a lot of insane riding today,” Davis said. “I feel bad for those guys in the judge’s booth.”
Davis said with Hirano not making finals, one serious competitor is now out of the battle.
“It’s crazy not to have him in the finals just knowing what he laid down in Oslo,” Davis said.
At the European X Games this year in Oslo, Norway, Hirano laid down the best run of the competition three straight times, incorporating a double cork 1440 into the run, which is the top trick in the game these days.
“It’s hard to stay on top in the halfpipe game contest to contest,” Davis said. “Some days you’re not as good as others.”
Locals Jake Pates and Ryan Wachendorfer had great runs in front of their hometown crowd. Both of the locals’ run contained three double inverted tricks, which Pates appearing to hit the 20-foot mark on his tricks and Wachendorfer throwing down the rare double chuckflip.
In an unexpected twist, 14-year old Taiaroa Tait, of Eagle, a student at Vail Mountain School, also got to compete in semifinals on Thursday against the best in the world. Tait finished second in Tuesday’s Junior Jam, where the winner was to be awarded a spot in the semifinals. Instead, all three podium finishers were able to compete and Tait showed the hometown crowd his style with his Weston Snowboard from the Minturn-based brand. Those he was competing against were his heroes, he said.
“Danny Davis and Ben Ferguson, those guys have so much style and amplitude, and they’re just so good,” he said. “It’s crazy dropping in next to them.”
Tait was second to 14-year-old Judd Henkes on Tuesday; Henkes went on to take an impressive fourth place in Thursday’s semifinals, moving on to Saturday’s finals with ease.
Today at the Burton U.S. Open, slopestyle action begins at 10 a.m. with Jamie Anderson, Spencer O’Brien and the women’s field taking on Golden Peak’s massive course. Yuki Kadono, Max Parrot and the men are set to hit the course at noon.