A WHITE REDEMPTION
First Shaun White failed to qualify for the SlopeStyle Finals. Then, a year after he'd ridden in a pipe contest, or really a year after he'd ridden pipe much at all, White landed near the flat bottom on the third-to-last hit of his first run and struggled through the final two hits of his run with diminished speed.
But anyone who thought that maybe this wouldn't be White's year to shine has probably been living under a rock, and never seen White rise to a competitive occasion before. 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. A Winter X judge consulted to comment on the score said there was talk amongst the judges of it being one of the best runs they've ever seen White throw down at the X.
He might not have qualified for SlopeStyle, but White won the first Winter X SuperPipe four-peat.
FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
Before Thursday night's Freestyle final, Daniel Bodin of Sweden called his win. "I'm not going for bronze, not silver. I'm going for gold," said Bodin, who finished fourth in Freestyle for the past four years. A few hours later, he made good on that promise, winning his first Winter X Games gold medal. Three days later, he landed a double-grab backflip, and won his second gold medal, in Best Trick.
And he has new teammate Levi LaVallee to thank for the assist.
After injuring himself in a distance jump in December and knocking himself out of Winter X, LaVallee called Red Bull teammate Bodin and asked if he'd be interested in joining Team LaVallee for the Games. Until a few weeks before Winter X, Bodin had never jumped his snowmobile into a foam pit, so LaVallee also extended an invitation to spend a few weeks at his house flipping into his personal pit. Bodin worked on increasing his extension and holds on tricks like the Superman seat grab flip, Kiss of Death flip and Superman Indian Air flip, all of which he threw in the final. "Goooold!" Bodin screamed after realizing he'd made good on his claim. "Best run of my life!"
The question heading into men's Ski SuperPipe finals Friday night was whether the U.S. could reclaim the podium. The answer, it turned out, was yes -- two steps of it, anyway. Hometown favorite and Aspen High freshman Torin Yater-Wallace became the youngest medalist in Winter X Games history when he took silver in the event. And no one was more surprised than Yater-Wallace himself. "I still can't believe it," he said, over and over, after the comp. "This is the best night of my life."
When he dropped into the halfpipe for his first run, the 15-year-old was still trying to wrap his mind around the fact that he was competing at Winter X against guys he considers his heroes. "I've been watching Simon [Dumont] compete since he started," Yater-Wallace said of this year's bronze medalist. "And now I'm competing against him. It's unreal." For the past 10 years, since the Games landed in Aspen, Yater-Wallace has watched from the crowd with his family and friends from school. Friday night, he put on a performance for them. His third run included a left-side 900 mute grab that soared 17 feet out of the pipe and earned the biggest crowd reaction of the night. Until defending champ Kevin Rolland of France took his final run and won the comp with his final trick, a flawless double cork 1260.
Now that the event is over, anyone want to place bets on who will be voted Aspen High's 2011 Homecoming King?
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
Yater-Wallace isn't the only Winter X rookie heading home with hardware from Winter X. Both the men's and women's Snowboard SlopeStyle finals were owned by first-timers. Twenty-year-old Enni Rukajarvi of Finland beat a strong women's field with a cab 720 on the final hit. And 18-year-old Sebastien Toutant became the first rookie since 2002 to win the men's contest. His good friend and fellow rookie, Mark McMorris, 17, took silver.
Saturday night, Alex Schlopy, the son of Olympic downhill skier Holly Flanders, landed a switch double cork 14 and a double cork 1620 -- a trick he'd never done before Saturday night's contest -- in Ski Big Air to beat out a strong performance from defending champ Bobby Brown, who took second, and 2011 Ski SlopeStyle champ Sammy Carlson, who finished third.
WIN, REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT
It seems every year someone is attempting a re-re-re-peat at Winter X. This year was no different. Snowboarder X queen Lindsey Jacobellis lined up to attempt to win her fourth gold in a row, and her seventh overall. The reigning world champion grabbed the holeshot and never trailed in a final she won by more than a second. In the men's final, five-time defending champ Nate Holland failed to claim the first Winter X Games six-peat and instead finished third behind Nick Baumgartner, who broke his collarbone while training at Copper Mountain and was riding with a plate and 15 screws holding the bone together.
Since its inception at Winter X, SnoCross has been dominated by two men: Blair Morgan and Tucker Hibbert. On the final day of Winter X, Hibbert passed Morgan for the most Winter X SnoCross gold medals, six, and claimed the five-peat. Snowboard superstar Shaun White failed to qualify in SlopeStyle, a sport he four-peated in between 2003 and 2006. But in the last contest of the Games, he became the first athlete to four-peat in Snowboard SuperPipe and the first to four-peat in two events.
Skier Bobby Brown failed to repeat his double gold performance from 2010, but he still put on a show. Skiing with an injured left hip and back and through a lot of pain, Brown finished just off the podium, in fourth, in SlopeStyle. In Big Air, the event in which he scored the first perfect 100 last year, Brown took second with a left double cork 1260 mute grab and a switch double misty 1440 mute grab. Neither trick was new, but both were good enough for silver behind rookie Schlopy.
ON TO THE NEXT ONE
Post-Olympic seasons aren't supposed to be the most progressive. It's a year for halfpipe snowboarders to spend more time in the backcountry, or the SlopeStyle course, or simply take a break from competition. Tell that to three-time Olympian Kelly Clark, who became the first female snowboarder to land a 1080 in competition. And she didn't just land it. She threw it 10 feet out of the pipe, held her grab forever and stomped it as cleanly as every other trick in her run. But the coolest thing about that run: She didn't need to do it. Clark had already won the contest, so her third run was simply a victory lap. All she needed to do was cruise to the bottom of the halfpipe and collect her gold medal. Instead, she used her final run to push the progression of women's halfpipe riding years ahead of where it was the day before. "I'm just having so much fun snowboarding this year," Clark said. "I came here to land that 1080 and to win, and I'm so happy I was able to do both."
In Friday's Snowboard Big Air final, Torstein Horgmo of Norway made everyone forget about double corks -- at least for one night -- when he landed the first contest triple. After crashing on his first two runs -- and most likely suffering from a concussion -- Horgmo went back to the top of the drop-in and attempted the trick one final time ... and landed. "Even Torstein said that was probably the stupidest thing he's ever done," said bronze medalist Sage Kostenburg. "But it was amazing. I'd just rather not see it become part of regular [SlopeStyle] competition. Let's all learn doubles with style first."