White still gold in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

White still gold in Aspen

Michael Appelgate
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

Jim RyanShaun White gets big air Sunday evening during the snowboard superpipe final at Buttermilk. The Carlsbad, Calif., product claimed his sixth straight Winter X Games gold medal.

ASPEN – Leave it to Shaun White to amaze us all.

Maybe you can call it shock, stun and even baffle. You can even claim the judging is rigged.

What you can’t deny is that he makes our jaws drop.

Sunday evening’s snowboard superpipe competition quite possibly had the most twists in Winter X Games history, with two finalists dropping out before the start and White announcing he bruised one of his heels during a slopestyle practice earlier in the week.

With all the noise, the 26-year-old’s gold-medal run spoke the loudest. He averaged more than 17 feet out of the pipe in his second run to post a 98 and claim his sixth straight Winter X Games gold medal at Buttermilk.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been more focused and in tune with what I’m doing physically and mentally,” White said.

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White was back atop the podium, but the contest lacked perhaps the one person who could overtake him. The No. 1 qualifier, Iouri Podladtchikov, last year’s silver medalist, pulled out of the event, citing an illness.

“I was bummed not only for the fact that I compete against him, but I know what that feels like to pull out of an event,” White said.

Also pulling out was Steamboat Springs’ Matt Ladley, who in practice soared out of the superpipe and into the crowd along the side of the pipe.

It’s debatable whether Podladtchikov’s presence would have made a difference, however, because White dropped a 95 on his first run and quickly set himself apart from his competition.

Except for one unknown middle schooler from Japan.

Ayumu Hirano, 14, looked like he was White’s only competition throughout the evening. In his first run, he averaged more than 16 feet from the lip of the pipe but didn’t land his last trick.

On Hirano’s second run, the pint-size phenom landed a backside melon, a frontside 1080, a cab 1080, a frontside 900, a backside 900 and a frontside double-cork 1080.

He may have looked like a kid, but his tricks didn’t.

He scored a 92.33. Good enough for second but not better than White, said the judges.

How can anyone be better when the Carlsbad, Calif., product does himself one better on his second run?

The man dressed in all black with round, gold washers hanging from his chest came within 10 inches of breaking Peter Olenick’s three-year height record of 24 feet, 11 inches on the first jump of his second turn.

He connected a backside method to frontside double-cork 1080 and then hit a cab double-cork 1080, a frontside 540, a backside double McTwist 1260 and a frontside double-cork 1260.

“He was amazing,” White said of Hirano. “I was trying to think of what I was doing at that age. I was proud of the way he was riding tonight. He was going as big as I was.”

With White and Hirano seemingly a step above the rest of the field, the real competition was for bronze.

Markus Malin, of Lahti, Finland, nailed his second run, highlighted by back-to-back double corks and was awarded with a 91.33 and the third spot.

That pushed Scotty Lago, of Seabrook, N.H., back to fourth, who laid down a first run that earned him a 90.

Malin, 25, fell on his last run, and so did Hirano, leaving just Lago to try and match or surpass White.

The 25-year-old dropped in and, in an attempt to build as much speed possible for his first trick, caught an edge and fell face-first on the snow.

Last year, with the gold medal wrapped up, White posted the sport’s first perfect score.

Would there be a repeat?

No. He hit a few simple tricks, gained some air and held his board above his head in front of a cheering crowd.

After a fifth-place finish in snowboard slopestyle on Saturday, White was crowned king of his turf once again.

“It’s nice,” he said. “It’s a pretty humbling title to hold.”