Shaun White cruises, redemption for Aspen’s Bleiler |

Shaun White cruises, redemption for Aspen’s Bleiler

Pat Graham
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Gretchen Bleiler, of Aspen, Colo., completes a jump in her first run during the snowboard superpipe women's elimination round during the Winter X Games at Buttermilk Mountain outside Aspen, Colo., on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

ASPEN – Even when Shaun White isn’t putting on a show, he’s still putting on a show.

White kept his signature move, the Double McTwist 1260, on the shelf for the qualifying rounds of snowboard superpipe on Thursday night at the Winter X Games in Aspen.

His 20-foot jumps above the halfpipe more than made up for it.

Playing it safe, White still blew away the competition, scoring 97.66 points on his final run. He beat the next-best finisher, Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland, by 9.33 points, a landslide in this event.

White’s Olympic teammates Louie Vito and Greg Bretz also earned spots in Friday night’s finals, but another Vancouver-bound American, Scotty Lago, failed to make the field.

Vito needed a strong final run to sneak in, staving off a wipeout midway through his performance.

White’s ‘Big Air’ package was unparalleled. He soared into the lights, 20 feet, 9 inches above the pipe, on his first run, then went 22-2 on his second. Everything else about the two trips down the superpipe – including his double-cork jumps – was solid.

And solid for White is spectacular for pretty much everyone else.

Now, the big question: Will White incorporate the Double McTwist 1260 into his bag of tricks for the final?

“I think I’m going to go for it,” he said shortly after his run on the ESPN broadcast. “I’m feeling good. I’m basically going to do hopefully a little bit of what I did tonight and some double McTwist 1260s.”

Aspen’s Gretchen Bleiler waited 12 months to return to the Winter X Games and pull off the trick that did her in last year.

A wait well worth it.

The three-time X Games champion completed a frontside 900 jump on her second run in snowboard superpipe qualifying to finish second, only 0.34 points behind Kelly Clark.

“There’s some redemption there,” said Bleiler, the 2006 Olympic silver medalist. “It feels really, really good to do the jump, grab the board and get all the way around.”

Clark and Bleiler will lead a six-woman field into the finals on Saturday. Counting Hannah Teter and Elena Hight, the top four finishers in qualifying are the same four on the U.S. Olympic team.

A notable absence from the field is Australia’s Torah Bright. One of the favorites in Vancouver, Bright suffered a concussion Thursday morning while practicing a switchback 720, not the double-cork jump she’s been trying to perfect for the Games.

Bleiler took a mean tumble last year at the X games, catching the lip of the pipe and slamming her back down hard on her second run. The Aspen resident stayed on the ground for some time before getting back up and boarding down.

She is considered a top challenger to Clark, who has been on a roll of late, winning four of five U.S. Grand Prix events in the lead-up to the Olympics.

Bleiler, who won the other one, also had a rough go last weekend at the final two Grand Prix events in Park City, Utah. She fell during training and hit her head before the final contest.

Feeling better at the X Games, Bleiler scored a 95.66 despite not being able to bring her final trick all the way around for 720 degrees of spin.

“There’s definitely more to come,” Bleiler said. “I feel like I’m in a perfect spot right now.”

As a kid, Kaya Turski thought her future was in in-line skating, not skiing.

An accomplished rollerblader, the Canadian would skate on everything from railings at the local bank to obstacles at the skate park. She entered competitions around the world, winning her share.

Some things never change.

Turski switched from skates to skis nearly five years ago and has rapidly adapted to the rails and jumps set in snow, not concrete. Turski won the women’s skiing slopestyle event Thursday, edging Keri Herman and Grete Eliassen.

“This is pretty similar to rollerblading, with the rails, balance and air sense,” explained Turski, who’s from Montreal. “So I picked it up pretty quick.”

Turski has had quite a few bumps along the way.

Most notably, there was her wipeout at the 2006 Icer Air competition in San Francisco. Doing tricks off a custom-made 100-foot ramp – lined with tons of imported snow – Turski under-rotated, causing her to land backward. In trying to recover, she traveled into the steps on the side of the course and rolled all the way down, catching a board near the end and crashing. She was pretty banged up, and to this day doesn’t like to watch the footage, widely available on YouTube.

“It was brutal, but here I am,” she said. “It was like a totally freak kind of accident. It wasn’t regular skiing.”

The next season, Turski tore up her right knee, causing her to miss more time.

“It’s annoying being the injured girl,” the 21-year-old said, smiling.

She’s making up for lost time, though. Turski won the bronze last season and gold this time around.

On her final run Thursday, Turski cranked rapper Lil’ Wayne on her iPod and jammed all the way down the mountain – nailing all her tricks.

Justin Hoyer won the snowmobile freestyle event Thursday night, while Joe Parsons was second and Caleb Moore took third.

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