Sarah Burke won her fourth Winter X SuperPipe gold medal Thursday night under the lights at Winter X 15 at Buttermilk, Colo. Winter X rookie Brita Sigourney placed second, and Roz Groenewoud rounded out the podium.
Burke, who qualified in the last position for Thursday night's final, earned the highest score -- a 91.33 -- for her second run, which included back-to-back flairs, a 720 and a cork 900.
"It feels great," Burke said, "and all it took was nine hard days of training." Recovering from a shoulder surgery she underwent this past summer after a disappointing 2010 contest season (she placed sixth in Slopestyle and SuperPipe at Winter X last year), Burke wasn't cleared by her doctor to ski halfpipe until less than two weeks before Thursday night's contest.
But the biggest moment of the night might have been the third and final run from reigning champion Jen Hudak. After falling on her first run and taking a conservative second run that wound up earning her fifth place, Hudak dropped into the pipe determined to defend her title. When her skis touched down on her final hit, the crowd had already begun to celebrate, but then some slough in the flat bottom took her off her feet, robbing her of what would have been the first 1080 by a woman in a ski SuperPipe competition. "I've never felt so good mentally and physically and have that happen. I landed that 10 and was telling myself, 'Just make sure you ride away' just when I thought I had, something took me out," Hudak said afterward. "I went into this day wanting to do that run more than anything -- that I accomplished, and I did it for my dad, who's home in Connecticut recovering from a bone marrow transplant that he underwent in November. Though I'm frustrated it didn't yield the result I was hoping for, I am proud of my skiing."
For Sigourney, a 21-year-old college student at UC Davis, her first Winter X appearance couldn't have gone any better. "I came here just wanting to have fun. I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself," she said. "And that's exactly what I did."
Groenewoud, who won the 2010 Grand Prix in December, was the only competitor Friday night who did a switch trick. "I'm disappointed with how the night went because I had a lot of new tricks I was working on that I didn't get to bring out," she said. "But I'm happy to be on the podium."
Check full results here.