Shaun White excels in return to competition |

Shaun White excels in return to competition

Scott Willoughby
The Denver Post/AP
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Chalk it up to muscle memory. Just be sure to use White chalk.

It turns out three-time defending X Games snowboard superpipe champion Shaun White may not need to practice anymore. Thursday, in his first return to halfpipe competition since winning the Olympic gold medal in Vancouver last February, the 24-year-old from Carlsbad, Calif., locked up the top qualifying spot for Winter X Games 15’s main event.

White used his now trademark back-to-back double-cork 1080s on his first of two laps through the Buttermilk Mountain superpipe to post the night’s top score of 92.00 and lead the field of eight qualifiers into Sunday night’s finals.

Fellow 2010 Olympic medalist Scotty Lago of Seabrook, N.H., qualified second with 85.33, and Vancouver Games silver medalist Peetu Piiroinen of Finland was third with 82.00.

Louie Vito, another U.S. Olympic Team rider from Ohio, qualified fourth with a score of 74.33, while Greg Bretz, the fourth American to represent the U.S., stumbled on both his attempts in Aspen and finished 13th.

Matt Ladley of Steamboat Springs posted the top performance among Colorado riders, using his own double-corked style to improve to the seventh qualifying position from 16th on his second run.

The jump bumped Brett Esser of Breckenridge out of qualifying contention and into ninth place, where he joined Breckenridge teammates JJ Thomas (14th) and Zack Black (16th) outside the bubble.

In addition to White, the qualifying round marked the return to snowboard competition for Danny Davis of Truckee, Calif., who broke his back and pelvis in an ATV accident a year ago. Davis rode well, but not well enough to qualify after skidding the landings on a pair of tricks in each lap through the pipe. He finished 12th, just behind 2006 Olympian Mason Aguirre of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., in 11th.

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