James first, Gold third in Laax Open superpipe final with X Games next
Following five years without a World Cup podium finish, Taylor Gold is back where the Breckenridge resident and Steamboat Springs native belongs. And he did so by landing a trick that had never been landed before in a halfpipe competition.
After struggling on his first run through the Laax Open superpipe, Gold bounced back to podium at Saturday evening’s World Cup halfpipe event in Switzerland. He finished the run with a double Michalchuk 1080, which was the first time the trick has been landed in a snowboard halfpipe competition.
“I was so stoked to put my new trick in a run,” Gold told reporters in Switzerland. “To end up in third was unreal. It feels like I finally got some redemption for three years of dealing with my knee injury.”
The 26-year-old U.S. halfpipe snowboarder — the older brother of Olympic halfpipe medalist Arielle Gold — finished in third place under the lights at the Laax Open via a final-round score of 87.00. It’s his fourth career World Cup podium and first since 2015. Gold was awarded the 87.00 after a thrilling run through the superpipe that began with a massive McTwist. As the snowfall in Laax picked up during his final run, Gold set up the speed for the rest of his run following the McTwist with an air to fakie.
Gold then landed a cab flat-spin 1080 into a front-side 1260 with an inventive grab. Toward the bottom of the pipe, Gold, grabbing both sides of his board with his mittens, was barely able to get the double Michalchuk 1080 around. The difficult trick, with a bit of a hand drag, served as the exclamation point for his run. Gold’s 87.00 for the run was only behind champion Scotty James of Australia (95.75) and Japanese star Yuto Totsuka (92.25).
“Taylor’s never been done double Michalchuk 1080 was the perfect way to end a classic Taylor Gold run,” U.S. Snowboard Halfpipe Pro Team Head Coach Rick Bower told reporters in Switzerland. “Huge amplitude, unmatched style, and textbook execution are what Taylor is known for. It has been an epic five-year battle returning from a shattered knee cap, but now the world knows Taylor Gold is back.”
James won the competition with a near-perfect first run that included a switch back-side 1260, a cab 1080 double-cork, a front-side 900 with a nose grab, a back-side 1260 and a front-side 1440, which he was barely able to stop himself in the corral after landing. The Laax Open judges lauded James for the run’s difficulty, amplitude and variety. They also scored him highly in terms of execution.
Behind Gold, the two other highest-scoring Americans on the day were also Summit County residents: 20-year-old Jason Wolle, a Winter Park native and resident of Frisco, and 20-year-old Longmont native and current Dillon resident Chase Blackwell.
Blackwell earned a sixth-place score of 70.25 in the 12-rider final on his first run through the pipe. He did so with a trio of big tricks up high in the pipe, beginning with a front-side double-cork 1080, into a cab 1080 followed by a front-side 1260.
Keeping his speed as best he could, Blackwell landed another 1080, this time a back-side 1080, with a little bit of a hand drag, before finishing his run with a switch air at the bottom of he pipe. The judges scored Blackwell high on difficulty, amplitude and variety, but low on execution.
Wolle finished seventh just behind Blackwell, with a second-run score of 68.75 that left him smiling from ear-to-ear. Wolle’s run began with a front-side 900, before he was able to land a double Michalchuk flip high on the halfpipe wall.
Wolle then threw a soaring front-side double-cork 1080 he barely held on to before landing a cab double-cork 1080 with a little bit of a wobble in the pipe’s flat bottom. He held his edge and kept riding through the pipe. To cap his run, he landed a front-side 540 at the very end of the pipe, finishing a run that was scored high on amplitude and pretty high on both difficulty and variety, but low on execution.
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Keegan Swirbul was set to carry on with his nomadic career this summer with Ljubljana Gusto Santic, a professional cycling team based out of Slovenia