US, Japan land atop the halfpipe podiums
VAIL — Kelly Clark solidified her position as the winningest athlete in the history of halfpipe snowboarding on Saturday with yet another win at the Burton U.S. Open. It was her eighth win in nearly two decades of competing at the event.
“Snowboarding is an incredible sport,” Clark said after the event, “because you’re never going to be the best, no matter what you’ve accomplished or how many things you’ve won.”
It was words of wisdom from the 31-year old, who was flanked on the podium by 14-year-old Chloe Kim and 18-year-old Arielle Gold in an American sweep.
“These women pushed me today in a really great way,” Clark said. “The future of women’s snowboarding is in good hands.”
And as far as the tricks that were thrown, the future is now.
Clark’s 1080-degree spin has been her signature move for years now, earning her competition win after competition win when combined in with the rest of her halfpipe run. On Friday, Kim landed a 1080 and Gold was a few degrees of rotation short of landing one, as well.
“I thought that these girls rode so well … it’s inspiring to say the least. I’m proud of these girls and I was proud to be a part of it today,” Clark said.
BIG IN JAPAN
On the men’s side, Taku Hiraoka, of Japan, one-upped his compatriot Ayumu Hirano to notch his first win in a big event.
“I feel amazing,” he said afterward.
Hiraoka was third at the Sochi Olympics behind Hirano, with Iouri “iPod” Podladtchikov besting the two Japanese riders. On Saturday in Vail, iPod finished fifth.
France’s Arthur Longo took second place and Hirano landed in third.
Hirano, in his last run, was going for glory. On his second jump, he went for a big 1080 with a “truck driver” grab, where both hands are grabbing the board like a truck driver on the steering wheel. Hirano was the only athlete in the field performing the 1080 truck driver. If he had landed it, we may have seen a different Japanese rider atop the podium, as his first run, which landed him in third place, was just a warm-up run for Hirano. But he landed a little flat and hit the ground hard, knocking his helmet off from his head.
“He was taken into medical but he’s doing fine,” said agent Carl Harris after the event. “He was more upset that we kept asking him if he was OK. If he had landed that 1080, we may have seen his 1260 or even his 1440 in the run.”