White wins Copper Grand Prix
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colo. – Snowboarding history was made Saturday at the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix at Copper Mountain.
And, believe it or not, it had nothing to do with Shaun White or the new double cork trick.
Sure, White used his acrobatic double-flipping, spinning maneuver to get himself on top of the podium, but Breckenridge teen Zack Black was the one who landed the newest, albeit unnoticed by the announcers, trick in a sport known for progression.
On his first run of the 16-man finals, Black, 19, hit a switch, backside 1080 – the first ever done in competition.
“I learned it this summer riding in Oregon,” said Black, a member of the U.S. Snowboarding Team. “I’ve been working on it a lot, working on linking it together. I guess it paid off.”
Did it ever. The trick boosted Black’s score to a 44.1, which netted him third place when most of the world’s top riders had problems finishing their runs.
“My hopes coming in, honestly, were just to make finals,” Black said. “I wasn’t nervous all last night, all today. I just thought that I’d made it this far, and it’s a good step. It just worked out from there.”
Though Black’s first-ever podium in a major event was noteworthy, it was White and Louie Vito who stole the show at Copper for the second straight day.
After 10 of the first 13 riders fell in windy and snowy conditions, Vito pulled out back-to-back double corks to start his run. Every hit was smooth, and Vito tried to finish the run with a frontside 1260, but just sat down on the landing. He still scored 42.6 for the run, which left him in second behind Black.
Then it was White’s turn. After a huge frontside air and a backside 900, White hit a front double cork 1080, followed by a cab double cork 1080. He then finished off the run with a frontside 1080 and a cab 1080, hitting six tricks in all.
Though Vito had a solid second run (45.6 points), White’s first-run score of 47 was never truly challenged the rest of the day.
“We had a little weather today, but it brings out the best in the riders,” White said. “Vito was putting it down. A lot of guys were throwing unbelievable tricks.”
“The thing I’m most proud of in my riding today was that I didn’t let my head get in the way,” White added. “Events like this, you can see some of the greatest riders kind of freak out over something they know how to do. I’m happy to get that out of the way and feel normal again.”
If what White did was “normal,” then the rest of the field has a lot of work to do the rest of the season.
“Today, he deserved to win,” Vito said of White. ” … My run definitely wasn’t as good as his, I don’t think.”
Saturday’s final was the first chance riders had at earning Olympic qualifying points. By the time all four Grand Prix events are contested this year, only four Americans will make it to Vancouver.
White, Vito and Black earned the top three spots on the points list after Saturday, with J.J. Thomas fourth among the U.S. contingent after his fifth-place finish at Copper.
Greg Bretz finished sixth overall, and Breck’s Steve Fisher was seventh.
Fisher, one of the favorites in any competition he enters, was unable to land one of his usual, high-flying runs and now has to start the season on the outside looking in.
Among the other top Americans, neither Scotty Lago nor Danny Davis landed a run in the finals.
With all the trouble most riders had Saturday, White was happy to emerge with a win.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I feel like all my stuff is aligning, and I just have to get up there and do what I’m good at, which is ride and not think about it.”
But White said not to expect the same type of runs when he hits the pipe next.
“I’m going to be a whole ‘nother rider by the time I get to the next event,” he said.
Most of the Grand Prix riders will compete in this week’s Dew Tour in Breckenridge, with the next chance for Olympic qualifying coming Jan. 4-10 at two Grand Prix pipe contests at Mammoth Mountain, Calif.
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