White rules in superpipe, claims X Games three-peat
ASPEN – Who else?
Who else could take one on the chin in practice, then come right back and deliver the knockout punch when the bell rang? Who else could be the first to win three straight snowboard superpipe crowns? Ten Winter X golds? The only one who could single-handedly reset the bar in men’s pipe riding with a run that defies simple explanation?
There’s a reason they call it a superpipe. Shaun White may be just a 23-year-old human, but on a snowboard, the guy does things that make you wonder.
The only thing missing is the cape.
Under the lights Friday night, White proved yet again why ESPN’s ratings jump when he’s on live in primetime.
Just a short while after taking a fall in practice that would have made Evel Knievel cringe, there was White stomping the same trick – a double McTwist 1260 – to cap a 95.33-point first run that proved to be the eventual winner.
But oh what a fall. White caught his chin on the lip of the 22-foot pipe while attempting the 1260 in practice. The impact knocked off his helmet, scraped his face, re-adjusted his jaw and had him seeing stars. It was a slam that would have sent most other riders to the couch for spectating and hot cocoa.
“I cracked my head pretty good,” White said. “I was pretty dazed after that one.”
Which is why he went right back up the pipe and did it again, stomping it on the next practice run, then muscling it out on his winning run.
“It just set a weird tone on that trick for the rest of the night,” White said. “It was just kind of lingering in my head, in the back of my mind. I ran up and did it again, just to make sure it didn’t turn into some weird complex in my mind. I was pumped to get it done and land that trick and take first tonight. And actually walk away from that slam and still be going to the Olympics.”
Speaking of the Olympics, White certainly is still the favorite to win the gold when the Vancouver Winter Games kick off next month, although his three other teammates on the U.S. men’s halfpipe team have some work to do.
Joining White on the podium Friday night were Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchikov and Japan’s Kazuhiro Kokubo. American Olympic riders Greg Bretz and Louie Vito finished fourth and eighth, while the other U.S. Olympian, Scotty Lago, failed to make it out of Thursday’s qualifier.
Podladtchikov threw three 1080s – two of them double corks – in his third and final run, a statement in itself of just how fast snowboarding has progressed since the 2006 Olympics when back-to-back 1080s were all the rage. In a double cork, a rider performs two full off-axis flips while spinning a full three rotations.
“First of all, everyone who is doing double corks right now has to say thank you to this guy,” Podladtchikov said in the post-competition news conference while pointing to White. “I had it in my mind already like a few years ago, but to actually do it in a run and do it consistently every time is something we couldn’t imagine before we actually saw it. I saw him do it, that’s why we all look up to him, but try to beat him of course.”
White has already moved onto the next best thing, the double McTwist 12, which he throws in a run that also features a double cork 1080.
It’s a trick that White said he is still figuring out. He remains committed to it, even after the fall he took Friday night.
“For me to continue riding was a weird decision, but I knew that I needed to make it and to keep going and to push through something like this,” he said. “I’m a snowboarder and I didn’t want to give up.”
He later added: “It’s one of those things where you get in an accident, it’s always the next day that it hurts. I’m sure my jaw is going to be locked up in the morning, the whole deal.
“I’m paying my dues for that trick, but it’s worth it.”
For more coverage of Winter X Games 14, visit http://www.aspentimes.com/xgames.