After his first run in Sunday night's Snowboard SuperPipe final, Shaun White found himself in an unusual position: second place. His Olympic podium mate, Scotty Lago, had just thrown a massive run that began with a cab double cork 1080 and set the height bar higher than anyone else in the field. White, the last rider to go due to his first-place qualifying position, landed near the flat bottom following his third-to-last hit and struggled through the final two hits of his run with diminished speed.
After failing to qualify for the Slopestyle final on Saturday in his return to that event after a year hiatus, it was fair to ask the question: Was this just not White's year?
On his second run, Lago crashed, leaving a crack in the door. White -- known as one of the fiercest competitors in all of action sports -- stormed through.
"I saw Lago destroying it and figured it was all or nothing at that point," White said. I knew I needed to stick the best run I had, and I went for it."
His second run began with a backside air nearly 20 feet out of the pipe and he built on it from there: double cork stalefish 1080 to cab double cork 1080 to front stalefish 5 to double McTwist 1260 to backside alley oop rodeo.
This is the first time White has thrown the double McTwist 1260 since his victory lap in the Olympics. The Olympics was the first place he'd thrown the double McTwist around from a 1080 to a 1260. The run earned him a 97.33 -- an identical score to his winning run last year and tied for the highest score in Winter X Games history. "Thank goodness," he said at the top of the pipe following his run. "I did NOT want it to come down to that last run!"
At that point, there was still a run left for Lago to regain the lead, but Lago, riding with a badly broken jaw after a crash suffered filming in the backcountry with Travis Rice just weeks before Winter X, crashed again on his third and final run, sealing White's victory.
"I obviously knew Shaun was going to throw down," said Lago after the event. "That's one of the better runs I've ever put down. It's better than the run I put down at the Olympics. I couldn't be any happier."
Louie Vito, who until this point has always been a Winter X bridesmaid, but never a bride, won his first Winter X (in the US) medal tonight. "That's the first front 12 I've thrown all year," said Vito. "I'm happy I landed. It probably could have been a little better looking, but I stayed on my feet. It's nice to do it in front of all these people. They're so stoked, and it's always nice to hang out with people who are just hyped on snowboarding."
When asked Kazuhiro Kokubo's run did not score as high as some in the viewing audience felt it deserved to, a Winter X judge explained, "That was definitely tough. It was basically him, Vito and Marcus. He went way higher, but was not as technical." As to White's score, the judge replied, "What I head from the other [Winter X] judges was that this was the best run they'd ever seen from him."
Asked how it felt to be back on top after his Slopestyle style set back, White responded, "I knew I wasn't holding the biggest cards, but after living and learning, I was so fired up coming into pipe. I did my thing, and it built me up again."