Saturday at the Open


Men's and Women's Halfpipe Finals

The sun was still shining on Saturday's superpipe finals, but two of snowboarding's top stars, Shaun White and Gretchen Bleiler were notably absent from competition. Their absence, though, didn't stop a whole galaxy worth of world-class riding from cropping up.

Women's superpipe finals set the bar early in the three rounds of runs, with Ellery Hollingsworth notching up the level of progression with a run that included a backside rodeo, frontside seven, cab seven and a cab 900, netting her third. Kaitlyn Farrington tossed a crippler seven, a cab seven and a stylish alleyoop three, grabbing second. Even without her X Games rival Bleiler, Kelly Clark dropped in with a mission, comboing a backside five, frontside seven, cab seven, into a gigantic frontside 900 -- posting up the highest score of the day and dominating the field at the Open for a fourth time.

"You know its amazing," said Clark, "I've been coming to this event as a spectator and a competitor for so long now, and its done so much to the sport, that it's a honor to be the winningest woman of all time." And on home turf, to boot. "Yeah, I love being home, having everyone from Burton and all my friends and family come and watch, it's just so special to have everyone be a part of this."

The men's field proved that nothing short of a double cork, or two, or three, would make it into the podium. Louri "I-Pod" Podladtchikov came on strong from the start, dropping his double Mc Twist 12, much to the crowd's delight. He took that run on the second round, teeing off with a cab double cork 10, into a frontside five, the Mc Twist 12, and adding another double cork 10 at the bottom, but couldn't squeak into the top spot. On White bowing out of the comp, I-Pod was pretty frank: "That's just lame," adding that he would've liked to ride against the Olympic Gold medalist.

Louie Vito dropped in like he was sticking quarters into a washing machine, skipping I-Pod from second to third with a run that left everyone dizzy: a double cork 10, cab double cork 10, double crippler, backside nine and a frontside 1260. Whoa.

"I'm just stoked to do it," said Vito about sticking three double flips into one run. "Danny Davis has always a been a good friend of mine, and he did three and broke them down in different spots. Danny and Kevin inspired me -- so I just had to step it up and try something different."

But both I-Pod and Vito had to settle for less, and the day belonged to none other than Kazuhiro Kokubo, who went gigantic and clean, linking up a frontside 9, his patented Mc Twist chickenwing, back to back 1080's and a frontside double cork.

"He made so many competitions this year, especially the Olympics. The US open is the final competition of the year, so he's so stoked," Kokubo said via an interpreter. And as for being the first Japanese rider to take the top spot at the US Open? Kokubo fielded that one himself: "Psycho."

On paper, Vito's run added up to a whole lot more, and the crowd let the judges know their position after the spinning snow dancer failed to make it on top. I-Pod might have had more math in his moves too, but in the end Kokubo's amplitude and smoothness and trick articulation (read: chickenwing) won over the hearts of the judges. And ain't it all in the eye of the beholder?