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White heads to Olympics undefeated

Devon O'Neil
Summit Daily News
WX10 MP White SM 1-30
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“One more to go.”

Those were the first words out of Shaun White’s mouth after he made history by winning the Winter X Games snowboard superpipe gold medal Monday night in Aspen.

White tied another Shaun’s record with his sixth career Winter X gold medal (Shaun Palmer won six boardercross titles), but this win had bigger implications. By landing a victorious run that included three 1080’s ” including one backside ” White kept alive his undefeated season entering February’s Winter Olympic halfpipe competition in Italy.

He is now unquestionably the favorite to win gold at those games.

“I’ve been just trying to have that perfect season I’ve always wanted, and so far, it’s going down,” White, 19, said in the corral at the bottom of the Buttermilk pipe. “Every contest I’ve entered I’ve done pretty good, you could say. And Torino’s up. Let’s do it.”

Eighteen-year-old Mason Aguirre took silver after qualifying first on Sunday night, and Scotty Lago, also 18, nabbed bronze for his career-best result. On this night, however, the teen with the hidden face filled the sole starring role.

White posted the top three runs of the evening, winning his eighth consecutive contest with a third-run score of 91.00. The victory came two days after White completed a fourpeat in slopestyle a few yards away from Monday’s venue. This was his second career gold in the pipe, and the first since 2003, when he swept both competitions at 16.

The three-year drought got to him, especially after he finished off the podium in fourth last year.

“I felt like I was getting, you know, not to be weird, but I felt like I was getting old,” White said. “I was sitting there like, damn, man, gotta get another gold in the halfpipe. Tonight’s the night.”

U.S. Snowboarding head freestyle coach Bud Keene stood on the outskirts of the corral after the event, and smiled at his great White hope. “More than anything, we’re just psyched we’re going to be taking him to Italy 100 percent healthy,” Keene said, obviously relieved. “If he’s healthy, he can win.”

Aguirre’s runner-up result gave him an Olympic boost, too. He landed a pair of 1080’s and two 900’s ” which used to be enough until White began throwing three 10’s in a single run ” to score 88.66 points.

The Minnesota native will be joining White in Turin, along with fellow U.S. riders Danny Kass and Andy Finch.

“All I wanted to do was get that first run,” Aguirre said, “so I was super happy with my outcome.”

As for Lago, the spindly teen from Seabrook, N.H., continues to climb the elite level’s ladder. “I’m still in shock,” he said after his first-run score (82.66) held up for bronze. “Can’t believe it, really. I think that was my best run I’ve ever done.”

Finland’s Risto Mattila took fourth (82.00), two spots ahead of his higher-profile countryman Antti Autti. Autti, the 20-year-old reigning world champion, won last year’s X Games crown but couldn’t put together a flawless run to compete with White on Monday. He took sixth (81.33) behind 5-foot-5 Ohio rider Louie Vito, who claimed fifth (81.66).

Kass, the 2002 Olympic silver medalist, fell on all three of his runs and finished 10th.

Devon O’Neil can be contacted at doneil@summitdaily.com


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