White spins to third straight win
ASPEN ” Shaun White surveyed the mayhem surrounding him Saturday afternoon ” circling television cameras, a rabid crowd of thousands, a sparkling clear blue sky overhead ” and pondered what to say.
How to sum up the feeling after winning the Winter X slopestyle crown for the third year straight?
“I think it’s just starting to hit me,” he said smiling. “I don’t know. Every time I go into it, I’m just trying to do my thing. It worked out again.”
White didn’t need to break out his backup run after his first effort earned him 93 points.
While waiting at the top for the other nine finalists to complete their second runs, the Carlsbad Calif., native conjured up an alternative sequence of tricks in his head.
“I was like, ‘If this doesn’t work, I’ve got another one,'” he said. “When I went through, I just saw a few guys make some mistakes. I don’t know. I didn’t need it.”
There was no topping The copper top. Again.
The final run of the afternoon was merely a victory lap for snowboarding’s brightest star ” an encore for a pack of fans lined along the course with glowing green Mountain Dew signs and huge foam hands emblazoned with the White’s name.
Danny Kass of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., wasn’t able to push past his friend and archrival in the event for the third year in a row and settled for a silver three-peat with a runner-up score of 90.33.
Jackson Wyoming’s Travis Rice ” who threw a double backflip on the Dealer’s Choice booter in his first run ” earned Winter X slopestyle bronze with a score of 87.
“It’s definitely a technical course, so it’s really hard to have a clean run the whole way through,” said Kass, who was blasting Ministry and Modest Mouse in his headphones during his two runs. “I think this is the best slopestyle I’ve ever done. Just with terrain being so different than anything else, it was a lot of fun.”
Rice was little bit disappointed that his first run only earned him a score of 87. He followed the double backflip with a huge backside 720 rodeo accented with a stylish nosegrab ” a closing combo that no one else dared to attempt.
It wasn’t enough to break up another White-Kass reunion at the top of the podium, however.
“There’s maybe just a little bit (of disappointment),” he said. “It’s all good though. I was hoping for a little more, but I’m pumped. Getting the bronze is alright.”
Rounding out Saturday’s top five was Bjorn Leines of Big Lake, Minn., and 35-year-old Breckenridge local Todd Richards, a living legend in the sport.
Leine’s second run, which featured a cab 1080 on the Dealer’s Choice booter, earned him 84 points, Richards’ second run, which earned him his high score of 81.33, featured back-to-back backside 900s on the bottom two kickers.
“It was super fun,” Richards said. “If my age is the only thing these guys have to poke fun at me with, I think I’m pretty fortunate.
White, who inked his first pro deal at 13 and is arguably the biggest draw at Winter X, said he loves the intense pressure that looms over him every year in Aspen.
He knows the crowd is expecting the best run every time he drops on course, whether in slopestyle or in the superpipe. With his myriad of corporate sponsors, he is also constantly aware that there are people behind the scenes expecting him to be Shaun White ” snowboarding’s Michael Jordan.
He wouldn’t have it any other way.
” I definitely get psyched when I’m the last one to go, she said. “I get all pumped up. There’s tons of pressure, and for me I don’t know why, the pressure always makes me better. You just find your energy. It’s weird.”
When asked about the friendly rivalry between them ” one that the ESPN commentators love to play up ” both Kass and White offered up ear candy following Saturday’s final.
“I’ll probably just pull his hair and claw his face,” Kass said, when asked if he was plotting retribution after losing to White for the third straight year.
“He’s such a b*stard,” added White with a sly half smirk. “Look at him. He’s from New Jersey. He had a mustache yesterday.”
White then took a more serious tact.
“It’s definitely like a good rivalry, but we’re just friends.” he said. “I’m probably going up to New Jersey and I’m going to try and hang out with his relatives.”
Fourth-place finisher Leines said he loves the X Games, but noted that, “Powder days are much better.” … White’s father, Roger, who greeted his son with a big hug after his second run, was overheard saying, “That’s one out of two.” White failed to repeat as the gold-medal winner in the men’s Winter X superpipe in 2004 after he injured his knee in training runs. … White said the slopestyle win was a momentum builder heading into superpipe competition today. “Last year was tough, but I have a feeling that this year is going to be better,” he said.
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