X Games: Burke back on top in women’s ski pipe
ASPEN – Sarah Burke, the queen of skiing superpipe at the Winter X Games, has regained her throne.
A year after her bid for a four-peat was derailed by Jen Hudak, the 28-year-old from Whistler, British Columbia, resumed her dynastic run at Buttermilk on Thursday. She’s now claimed four of the event’s last five gold medals.
“It’s amazing,” said a grinning Burke, who’s barely recovered from a fall shoulder surgery. “I’m so happy happy. It’s been a big of a struggle the last little bit. … I couldn’t really ski until January, so it’s been a really fast turnaround.”
After taking a spill and losing a ski trying for a 720 on her first run of the night, Burke wowed the crowd with a smooth second run that vaulted her into the lead. Accumulating a score of 91.33, the veteran of seven X Games stuck a smooth run that featured a 900 and big amplitude.
“I was just trying to keep it simple,” Burke said. “I was wanting to do an alley oop flat 5 I’ve been working on, but I had to play it safe and I’m happy I did. My third run, I tried to clean it up.”
X Games rookie Brita Sigourney, a 21-year-old college student and freestyle coach at Squaw Valley Resort in the Lake Tahoe area, took home silver (86).
“It feels amazing,” Sigourney said. “I didn’t try to put any pressure on myself. No expectations. I was just trying to have as much fun as possible. That’s exactly what I did and it turned out well for me.”
Sigourney, who grew up in coastal Carmel, Calif., spent much of her childhood in her parents’ car making the five-hour drive to Lake Tahoe on weekends.
“My parents just drove us up to Lake Tahoe every week,” Sigourney, currently a junior graphic design major at the University of California-Davis. “I was on a team, until my senior year in high school. … My parents were pretty dedicated.”
Roz Groenewoud, a 21-year-old from Calgary, Alberta, claimed bronze (84) for the second straight year.
Hudak, last year’s superpipe champ, nearly stole the show with her final run on Thursday.
The Connecticut native and former Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club post-graduate skier came agonizingly close to completing a 1080. Hudak very nearly did, but lost her balance and dropped to the pipe floor moments after touching down.
“I thought she had it,” Sigourney said. “That was the best 10 I’ve ever seen a girl do. I’m stoked she pulled it out, but I’m bummed she didn’t land it.”
Turski repeats in women’s ski slopestyle
ASPEN – Kaya Turski was tested in her bid for a repeat victory in ski slopestyle at Winter X Games 15.
Once again, the Quebec native could not be bested.
Turski, competing for the first time since tearing the ACL in her left knee at March’s inaugural Winter X Games Europe in Tignes, France, took advantage of near-perfect conditions at Buttermilk to post a score of 93.66 on her first of three runs Thursday afternoon.
While they came close, nine other competitors could not keep the 22-year-old from capturing the first gold medal of these games. Some familiar faces joined her on the podium. Keri Herman and Grete Eliassen, last year’s silver- and bronze-medalists, respectively, matched those efforts with scores of 93.33 and 93. Carbondale’s Meg Olenick fell on two of three runs and settled for a score of 76.33 and an eighth-place finish.
Six riders topped the 90-point plateau. In 2010, Turski’s 96.66 was nearly 12 points better than her nearest competitor.
“I think this year was a lot tougher. The girls definitely stepped up their game and definitely gave me a run for my money,” said Turski, who was third in the first Winter X women’s ski slopestyle in 2009. “I was definitely a little stressed out coming into this event. Sˇ It is a huge relief to have it over with and have it go well.”
Turski did not appear to be feeling much pressure on her opening run. She negotiated the course’s technical upper rail section with precision, then set her self apart with a group of clean airs – matching 540s and a switch 720 off the 70-foot final hit, or “Money Booter.”
“(Laying down a clean first run) was definitely a huge help,” Turski said. “I felt like I almost wasn’t breathing for that first one. The breath came back after that, which was nice.”
Added Park City, Utah’s Eliassen: “I just try to focus on myself when I’m going, but you can’t get away from the TVs up there. When you see someone lay down a good run, you’re obviously effected by it, but you really have to concentrate on yourself and make sure you ski the best you can.”
Herman, of Breckenridge, said she was energized by Turski’s effort.
“I was stoked. I like seeing everybody do well,” she added. “I think it’s awesome. It inspires me and encourages me to Sˇ pick it up and do a better run than I thought I could.”
Herman, 10th after two runs Thursday, saved her best for last. She secured a spot on the podium with a final run that included two corked 540s and a stylish switch corked 720.
“I felt good when I landed, but I wasn’t sure (if it was good enough),” the 28-year-old said. “Everyone was killing it today with such amazing runs. I really wanted a podium spot, and I’m really glad it worked out for me.
“It’s so good to be up there with a bunch of friends. I’m so proud of them for how they skied and what they’re doing for the sport. It’s amazing.”