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Comeback ends in gold

Steve Benson
Aspen local Gretchen Bleiler soars during her winning first run of the womens superpipe final Saturday at the Winter X Games. Dominique Taylor/Vail Daily.
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Gretchen Bleiler needed only one run. The local goddess of snowboarding scored an 89.0 on her first of two runs in the finals of the X Games women’s snowboard superpipe Saturday night. France’s Doriane Vidal would come the closest to Bleiler, rebounding after a tough first run to post an 88.0.”I’m so excited,” a grinning Bleiler said after the event. “It’s unbelievable to come back after a knee injury [and win].”

Bleiler was flawless in her first run, launching a smooth crippler out of the gate before throwing consecutive 540s. “I needed to throw my run with amplitude and confidence and the rest would fall in place,” she said. Leading up to the games, Bleiler expressed concern over her confidence after partially tearing her ACL and sitting out most of the 2003-04 season. She said returning to the valley where she grew up and still calls home was key in restoring her confidence and collecting gold. Bleiler won gold in the X Games superpipe in 2003.

“I owe it to Aspen and the valley, seriously, it took this to make it click,” she said. “My family is here, my friends are here, my boyfriend … I can’t describe it, it’s amazing.” Bleiler seemed poised to take home gold after Hannah Teter, Torah Bright and Kelly Clark – third, fourth and fifth, respectively, after the first run – all posted lower second run scores.But Vidal, the last competitor standing between Bleiler and gold, whipped out a beautiful second run. For about a minute, Bleiler and her hometown crowd sat in silence, waiting for the judges to release Vidal’s score.

Was it a tense moment? “Oh definitely,” Bleiler said. “She’s been riding so well.” When the judges released the score, an 88.0, Bleiler’s second run turned into an exhibition. But instead of taking it easy, Bleiler attempted, and almost stuck, the elusive 900.”I’m so bummed I didn’t land that,” Bleiler said with a laugh. “But next time.”


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