ASPEN - Two years ago, it was Kelly Clark who landed the first 1080 in women's snowboard superpipe history. On Saturday night in Aspen, Elena Hight pushed the sport even further, but it wasn't enough to unseat the undisputed queen of the superpipe.
The 29 year-old from West Dover, Vt., had to produce a better run than Hight's, which included the sport's first ever double backside alley-oop rodeo. Clark did just that, by a third of a point, and grabbed her third straight gold medal on her final run at Buttermilk to beat Hight's first-run of 90.
Clark's run contained a notably higher amplitude than Hight's, which earned the judges' favor.
"I definitely tried to maintain my amplitude the whole time, trying the most technical trick on my first hit and trying to link everything together," Clark said. "The level of snowboarding tonight was at an all-time high. I'm proud to be on top of this podium."
Hight started with her only clean run of the night: a backside 900, a frontside 720 Japan, a Cab 720, a frontside 540, a backside method and the double backside alley-oop rodeo.
"I've been thinking about doing the double since I landed it last May," Hight said. "That's what I came out here to do. I landed my run, and I'm beyond excited."
Then Clark fell on her last jump.
"I was excited when I saw Elena land it," Clark said. "Regardless of what happens, I try and keep to my plans. I go out to do my best run, and that's a part of my experience I've built over the years."
She nailed her second run, but it produced only an 87.33.
However, Hight couldn't land the backside double-cork again in her final two runs, opening the door for Clark's final run.
"Kelly rode amazing today," Hight said. "I wanted to go out and get bigger in my runs. ... It's a new trick for me, so I'm just stoked that I landed it."
Clark soared more than 14 feet out of the pipe on her first jump of her third run - the frontside 1080 and then landed a Cab 720 mute grab, a frontside 900, backside 540 mute and a frontside cork 720.
"Having a first-run fall isn't ideal," Clark said. "I just played on my strengths."
Clark landed her final trick a bit lower than she desired, and a few tense moments ensued while the judges deliberated before awarding the run a gold medal - by the slimmest of margins.
Arielle Gold, a 16-year-old from Steamboat Springs, posted an 85 in her second run, which ended up being good enough for bronze. Gold took Getchen Bleiler's spot after the local favorite dropped out of the competition Wednesday evening. This was Gold's first appearance at the Winter X Games.
"This is huge - I can't believe this is happening," Gold said.
Since her first medal in the X Games in 2004, Clark has missed the podium just twice.
With the first double-cork landed, Clark said she will have to try and develop the trick herself in preparation for the Olympic games next year in Sochi, Russia.
If she does, expect the dominance to continue.
"I think it's amazing to see where women's snowboarding is going," Clark said.