If you ever want to hear an expressive crowd of SuperPipe fans, watch an event at Tignes, France. With every hit of Friday night's final event of the Winter X Games Europe, something between a roar and a sigh went up from the crowd of more than 22,000 people. Even during the first of the rider's three runs, which was effectively nullified by that weird twilight hour that renders the pipe walls invisible, the crowd would not be subdued.
Defending Winter X Europe gold medalist Iouri Podladtchikov was one of the few riders able to hold down a solid first run, throwing down a textbook cab doublecork 1080 to frontside inverted 540 to backside double McTwist 1260 to frontside double cork 1080, finishing up with a switch air to regular.
Podladtchikov declared that he wanted to throw the same run, but do it bigger. And that's what he did for his second run, executing his tricks to near perfection and moving into first place with a score of 90.33.
Then along came Louie Vito. Vito threw a double crippler to Michalchuk to frontside double cork 1080 to cab double cork 1080 to frontside 1080, moving him into first place with a 93.00 score. Vito has included three doubles in his runs for a while now, but Friday night he boosted them just a little bit higher. "I've always had the technical tricks, but haven't had the amplitude," he said, "so I've been working on that. Last year I didn't go as big, and it showed in my score."
Podladtchikov bobbled on his last run, but still received his highest score of the night. Unfortunately, it was not enough to overcome Vito, and Podladtchikov ended the night in second place.
"That was the best run I did all season," said a confused Podladtchikov of his second run, adding with a shrug of the shoulders that he didn't understand how his third run had scored higher. "Of course it's nicer to win gold, but I'm still very excited about today because it was probably the most fun day in my season. Everything worked today and it was a really fun pipe."
"I thought the pipe was good; the riding was great," agreed Vito, who was all smiles after the last rider dropped and his winning score held the top spot. "It's great. This is my first X Games gold medal. So, obviously, I'm stoked."
Equally as stoked was bronze medalist Christian Haller. He stood at the bottom of the halfpipe after his third run (frontside 1080, cab 1080, frontside 900, backside 540, frontside double cork 1080) landed him in third place, shaking his head when anyone congratulated him and naming all the men left to drop who could beat him out of a podium spot.
In the end, no one could. As the cameras descended on Vito, he stood off to the side, looking at the scoreboard with a smile.
Check out the complete results.