Schiller golden in ski slopestyle at Winter X in Aspen |

Schiller golden in ski slopestyle at Winter X in Aspen

Jon MaletzThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Thomas 'TJ' Schiller, from Canada, gets air on his final run of the men's Slopestyle competition at the Winter X Games 13 at Buttermilk Ski Area, near Aspen, Colo. on Sunday, Jan., 25, 2009. Schiller won the event. (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)
AP | FR37383 AP

ASPEN T.J. Schiller didnt want to call it a comeback. But even the Canadian skier could not come up with another word to describe what transpired Sunday at the Winter X Games.Little more than a year after severely injuring his right knee in a fall at Breckenridge, Schiller went from mens slopestyle alternate to gold medalist. The 22-year-old set the early standard with a technical first run that garnered a score of 93 from judges, and edged out Sammy Carlson (91) and Colby West (90) to claim the podiums top spot.Basalts Matt Walker, who nabbed the eighth and final qualifying spot during the elimination round earlier Sunday, wound up seventh out of eight after posting a 78. Carbondales Peter Olenick failed to advance to the afternoon final.[Its been] a long road to recovery, Schiller said. Its definitely a scary thing to blow out your knee the week before your biggest competition of the year.This is pretty much the ultimate comeback.Schiller attempted a 1080 during a practice run at Breckenridge last January and landed awkwardly in the backseat with his right leg extended. The 2006 Winter X best trick winner (slopestyle was cancelled because of inclement weather) would later learn that the accompanying pop he heard as he hit the snow was his right ACL tearing. Schiller rehabbed for more than 11 months. If Sundays effort is any indication, he is nearly back to full strength.His first of three final runs included a 270 on and 270 off the top rail, back-to-back 900s including one in which he cleared the daunting 65-foot Crossover Canyon gap, a feature Schiller described as scary and a switch 1080 off the Money Booter. All three podium finishers tempted fate by taking on Crossover Canyon. Carlson, 2007s slopestyle silver medalist, launched early and nearly came up short of the landing area.I thought for sure I was going to smash into the wall on national television, the 19-year-old said. That wouldve been terrible.Carlson landed safely, then vaulted into second with a first-run score of 91. He fell on the first rail during the second run, then landed a solid third run that included the competitions only 1260. Still, he couldnt improve his score or further challenge Schiller.West, last years bronze medalist, landed in the backseat after attempting a 900 over the gap on his second run, skidded across the snow and nearly took out a course worker. The Canterbury, N.H., native, and events top qualifier, was in fourth heading into his final run. He managed to snag bronze, knocking 2008 champion Andreas Hatveit (89) off of the podium in the process.West has finished no worse than fourth in all three of his Winter X slopestyle appearances. Schiller was 16th in slopestyle in 2007. The big-air specialist is now enjoying the view from the top.I came here and did what what you got to do, he said, I didnt think this was

1. T.J. Schiller / Vernon, BC, Canada / 93.00 2. Sammy Carlson / Hood River, Ore. / 91.00 3. Colby West / Breckenridge, Colo. / 90.00 4. Andreas Hatveit / Sudndalen, Norway / 89.00 5. Phil Casabon / Shawinigan, BC, Canada / 86.33 6. Bobby Brown / Breckenridge, Colo. / 81.33 7. Matt Walker / Aspen, Colo. / 78.00 8. Charles Gagnier / Victoriaville, QB, Canada / 72.00

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