Whiteout at X Games
ASPEN, Colorado ” Against the world’s best snowboarders, Shaun White’s only competition was himself.
The 21-year-old California prodigy proved yet again Sunday night at Buttermilk ” if there were any doubters ” that, when in top form, it’s virtually impossible to beat him on a snowboard in an icy halfpipe.
Even in a full-on whiteout.
White cracked 90 points on all three of his trips down the massive Winter X superpipe, opening with a 93-point first effort and closing with a 96.66-point third run that he capped off with the competition’s only 1260.
The best the rest of the field of nine could do was 88 points, turned in by silver medalist Ryo Aono ” a 17-year-old Winter X rookie from Japan who rides like a young Jedi to White’s Obi-Wan Kenobi.
After going without a gold medal in his previous three Winter X Games events, including a second consecutive bronze in slopestyle Saturday, White said it felt awesome to be back on top of the podium.
“Especially because I did the summer,'” said White, bringing up his transcendent gold-medal triumph in skateboard vert at X Games 13 in Los Angeles. “Now I’m getting my winter on. It feels good.”
Man among boys
Aono ” the top qualifier from Saturday ” proved he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years, although there was no overtaking his childhood idol on this night.
“I’m just glad I had lots of practice,” said Aono, all of 5 feet, four inches and 130 pounds, through an interpreter.
Kevin Pearce of Norwich Vt. ” who beat White at the European Open in Switzerland earlier this month ” took the bronze, bumping last year’s bronze medalist Mason Aguirre with an 85.66 final run.
White complimented both podium finishers, although it was clear on this night he was his own best competition. His final run included a stylish McTwist, back-to-back 1080s, two 900s and, even though he didn’t need it to win, the spin-cycle 1260.
Aono, by contrast, only landed one 1080 and two 900s.
The competitive fire was the same that was evident after White finished with the bronze Saturday. (He rode his first slopestyle run on a broken snowboard, struggled on a brand-new board in a second run, then after failing to win gold, immediately went back to the top of the course to stick the run he wanted, gold medal be damned.)
“It’s hard to win every time,” White said Sunday night. “It’s definitely one of those things where it’s nice to take a good loss and get better. You kind of dig deep. I went this summer and I learned the 1260s and other stuff.”
After “sissing out” on the trick in his second run, White talked himself into going for it on his final run ” even though the heavy snow had caused the rest of the field trouble on the pipe’s icy walls.
He stuck it with trademark precision, before raising his arms in victory.
“All I remember was doing the backside (900) and I landed and I’m going at that wall and I’m just remembering that I wanted to spin as hard as I could,” he said. “Pretty much riding away from that, it was the best feeling ever.”
Pearce said the trick has been numerous times before, though never as stylish as White did it ” nor after such a dizzying run before it.
“He stepped up and threw a pretty perfect 12,” Pearce said. “I’ve seen guys do them, but Shaun was able to grab it all the way around. It’s good to see that.”