Kazuhiro Kokubo earned his second consecutive halfpipe win at the Burton U.S. Open of Snowboarding Saturday, beating out Iouri Podladtchikov in a repeat of last year's finals showdown. Kohei Kudo proved that his come-from-nowhere win at the Burton Canadian Open was no fluke with his third-place finish, rounding out the podium.
Burton U.S. Open of Snowboarding
"I'm so stoked I can't believe it. I can't breathe," said Kokubo, who skipped his third-run victory lap to straight shot down the pipe with his arms in the air into the welcoming embrace that he and other Japanese riders have been receiving from fans this week after the earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan yesterday.
"I talked to my family and everybody is okay but I have some friends I still haven't been able to contact," Kokubo said." I have a lot on my mind today but I'm happy to be able to come here and focus on something positive. This year the competition was so difficult but it is always my favorite contest. The U.S. Open is the original snowboard contest and it's the one contest that always honors original snowboard style."
Kokubo scored a 90.10 that held through three runs with a huge frontside alley oop nearly 20-feet out, followed by a frontside 900, Michalchuk, double cork 1080, and a Cab 10.
"Kazu has a really clean, unique style of riding and it's so fun to watch him," said Podladtchikov, who fell on a double McTwist in his third run as he tried to climb higher up the podium. "Technically I risk a lot more than he does with some of my tricks, but it's hard to compete with him on style. If I had landed my double McTwist and still lost to him I would be upset, but as it is I can only be happy for him."
Iouri's second place finish today put him in second place in the both the overall Swatch TTR World Tour series and the Burton Global Open series, behind Peetu Piiroinen, who missed the cut for both finals this week but came into the Open with enough points to secure both titles regardless.
"It's been nice," said Piiroinen, "but it's just been too many contests this year. Every week there's some new event somewhere in the U.S. or in Europe! Next year I'm going to try to take it a little bit easier."
On the women's side, Kelly Clark continued her unstoppable season, partly thanks to the 1080s that she has now perfected.
"I just kind of decided to be intentional this year," said Clark, who won nine out of eleven contests she entered this season, including all four Burton Global Open stops. "I didn't care whether it was an Olympic year, whether it was a big contest or wasn't a big contest. I just wanted to come out and accomplish [my] goals, so I was able to really enjoy myself and have fun competing and do that very thing."
With today's win Clark also finished the TTR World Tour series in second behind Jamie Anderson. Because Clark only competed in halfpipe events this year, she was unable to match Anderson's total points.
"I've never really wanted to do anything just for points," explained Clark. "My goal this year was winning the X Games and the U.S. Open. I really wanted to land my 10 and walk away with my fifth win here, so I chose that to focus on."
Although Clark didn't end up needing her 1080 in today's finals, she broke it out in her victory lap, just for fun.
"We're having a 1080 camp for the girls this Spring so we can play catch-up," said Hannah Teter, who came in second, followed by Gretchen Bleiler in third. "Hopefully next year we'll all be able to do it and everyone will be throwing it down, giving Kelly more of a run for it."
A highlights show from the U.S. Open will be broadcast on ESPN2 on March 13 at 4:30 p.m.
U.S. Open Men's Halfpipe Final Results
U.S. Open Women's Halfpipe Final Results
2011 Burton Global Open Series Men's Final Results
2011 Burton Global Open Series Women's Final Results
2011 Men's TTR World Tour Champion
Peetu Piiroinen $50,000
2011 Women's TTR World Tour Champion
Jamie Anderson $50,000