Tanner Hall makes Winter X history
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Third place had been locked up, but two friends had one final score to settle.
Tanner Hall and Simon Dumont, in what has become a common sight in the last half decade of Winter X, occupied first and second place after two runs in Thursday’s skiing superpipe final. And in this latest dual between freeskiing’s brightest stars – it seemed fitting both wore yellow – Hall prevailed in a competition that will be known as much for its historic implications as its controversy.
Dumont, the undisputed fan favorite, wowed crowds in his third and final run, soaring 20 feet, 8 inches out of the Buttermilk pipe on his first hit and landing a flawless 1260. Many were sure the Bethel, Maine, native would knock Hall out of first. When a 91 – 1.33 points short of the score Hall racked up in run No. 2. – flashed across the scoreboard, however, fans erupted, filling the finish area with a chorus of boos.
Canterbury, N.H.’s Colby West, bronze medalist in last year’s slopestyle, finished third with an 85. Carbondale’s Peter Olenick couldn’t complete a clean run, and wound up seventh out of nine.
Hall, the wire-to-wire winner and first Winter X athlete to win seven gold medals, took a victory lap to celebrate his superpipe three-peat.
“It feels really good. My whole life, this is what I wanted for my life,” Hall said. “… It’s a pleasure to be back here again.”
And a pleasure for fans who, for a second straight year, watched Hall and Dumont battle for the podium’s top spot. Hall edged Dumont by a single point to capture gold in 2007.
“We did our thing, and I knew it would be the same as it is every year,” said Dumont, a two-time pipe gold medalist. “I like gold, but the cheers do it for me also.”
Despite the chagrin of pipe-ophiles, Dumont said he was content to walk away with silver.
“I’m not a judge. I just ski. When I get to the bottom, it’s out of my hands,” he said. “I saw how he skis. I know what I need to do to win.”
Hall topped Dumont last year in a dual that rivaled any in Winter X’s 12 years. In doing so, he tied Dumont with two pipe golds, further increasing the hype heading into Thursday’s rubber match.
Hall prophesied Wednesday that Thursday’s final would take the sport to a “whole other level.” The much-anticipated match started slowly, though, the direct result of the steady snow that began falling one hour prior to the competition and persisted through the first two rounds, slowing down the pipe and stifling each competitor’s amplitude.
While Dumont took a tumble in the middle of his first run and wound up last, Hall negotiated the 500-foot pipe cleanly to post a 90 – 16 points higher than Norway’s Andreas Hatveit.
“I was skiing well [in practice], and I was really excited. I was landing everything and going big,” Dumont said. “… I was bummed it started to snow.
The precipitation tapered off in time for Dumont to test the pipe for a second time. While he was the lone challenger to make Hall sweat, his 87.66 wasn’t good enough to crack the top spot. Hall followed and, in the second round’s final run, stretched his advantage with what proved to be his historic gold medal-winning run. He opened with a rightside 900 into a 1260 and closed with a switch 720 and a 900.
“This guy sitting next to me has pushed me harder than anybody else,” Hall said as he turned to put his arm around Dumont. “Who else is blasting 20 feet out of the pipe on the first hit … it’s intimidating.”
Intimidating maybe, but a finish the Winter X Games legend’s only seven-time gold medalist will savor – at least for 24 hours. Six-time gold medalists Shaun Palmer and Shaun White begin their assault on Hall’s mark in Friday’s preliminary rounds in boardercross and snowboard slopestyle.
So, did Hall send a message to White?
“Probably not because Shaun White isn’t human,” Hall joked. “I think I speak for everyone up here when I say he is an inspiration to every action sports athlete.”
Olenick, last year’s bronze medalist, managed to land his famed Whiskey Flip (double backflip with a twist) after two failed attempts in Rounds 1 and 2. All hopes of a return to the podium were dashed, however, when he spun out after landing low on the transition on his final trick.
West followed with a clean run, vaulting from fourth into third.
“I’m OK with it,” West said, flashing a smile. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
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