France’s Rolland wins gold in Winter X ski superpipe |

France’s Rolland wins gold in Winter X ski superpipe

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Kevin Rolland, of France, flies through the air on his way to winning the men's skiing superpipe final at the Winter X Games at Buttermilk Mountain outside Aspen, Colo., on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

ASPEN – After Xavier Bertoni’s unexpected triumph at last year’s Winter X Games, Simon Dumont declared: “Watch out for French guys. They can ski pipe.”

How prophetic.

In 2009, Bertoni put an end to Dumont’s and Tanner Hall’s five-year superpipe gold stranglehold. Sunday night, fellow countryman, friend and training partner Kevin Rolland might have ushered in a new era in pipe skiing.

Of the 20-year-old from La Plagne’s five hits in his second run, three were double flips – a feat no skier has ever attempted in competition. The effort was not lost on the judges, who rewarded him with a score of 95.

“I never do that before,” an exhilarated Rolland told the crowd afterward. “This is my night, I think.”

As 12-time Winter X medalist Hall, out for the season because of injury, watched from the finish corral, Rolland put on a show no one in the eight-man field could match. New Zealand’s Jossi Wells, the top qualifier, settled for silver with a 92, and Bertoni (90) took home bronze.

Dumont finished fourth, just 0.46 points behind Bertoni, snapping his streak of six straight podiums. Carbondale’s Peter Olenick wound up eighth after falling on all three runs.

“I didn’t think I had the run to beat Kevin’s,” Wells said. “We were all battling for second out there.”

Rolland said he had never attempted three doubles in one run. But, after scoring 91 in the opening round, the man who injured his MCL and finished 10th in this event in 2008, and eighth last year, decided it was time to seize the opportunity.

Just 1.44 points separated the top three riders at the time.

“I don’t know, it’s the evolution of the sport. Everybody is doing doubles now. You have to do two or three to win,” said Rolland, who added bronze to his Winter X medal haul little more than an hour later in superpipe high air. “I did that first run perfect, so in the back of my mind I was like ‘OK, let’s do whatever will win.’

“It was impressive, like nothing else. … It was a dream.”

His good friend was impressed.

“[I thought], ‘Oh, he’s gonna win,'” said Bertoni, who shares the same coach with Rolland. “When we are riding, we are pushing each other to do the best. He is doing the best all the time, with huge tricks.”

Saturday, Dumont, who was third last year, rarely showcased the amplitude that has made him a fan favorite. The Bethel, Maine, product, who won this event in 2004 and 2005, might have been a bit hesitant after drilling his back on the decking during a brutal fall in Monday’s practice session.

Dumont was third after the first two runs, but Bertoni saved his best for last to seize the last podium spot. The 21-year-old’s third run included a flawless double flip and a 1260 off the final hit.

“It feels pretty good, because best friends are on the podium,” Bertoni said. “This is like my second dream. The first was last year.”

They’ll have the chance to match or better Sunday’s feat on home snow in little more than a month. Winter X Games Europe debuts in Tignes on March 10-12.

“I can’t wait,” Bertoni said, cracking a smile.

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