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Shaun White gold again

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Shaun White took home the gold for the fourth year in a row at the Winter X-Games Men's Superpipe.
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ASPEN – The leather jacket and skin-tight black pants made Shaun White look more like a lead singer than a snowboard superpipe phenom.

This rockstar sure had plenty of stage presence Sunday night. And once again, he was as good as gold.

The Carlsbad, Calif., native proved he was mortal in slopestyle earlier this week. But on the final day of competition here, in a Buttermilk pipe where he has produced some of Winter X’s most indelible moments, White unquestionably was in complete command.

He shook off a lingering cold and a rather pedestrian first run with a second effort packed with technicality, style and his signature amplitude. The result was a score of 97.33 – matching the highest mark ever recorded in event history, which White established last year. That effort was more than enough to blow away the rest of the field, including U.S. Winter Olympics teammates Scotty Lago (92) and Louie Vito (87.33), who settled for silver and bronze.

The four-peat, a first in Winter X history in any discipline, is now complete.

“I felt like if I came out here, I had to earn my leather. You can’t show up in this and not throw something cool,” joked the 24-year-old, competing in his first competition since his Olympic triumph – and after only two weeks of riding.

“Man, the four-peat feels mean, it’s good. I don’t know, I’m proud to show up and take a beating in slopestyle and come here and grab the four-peat.”

White’s good-luck charm – a patch from the jacket he wore during his gold-medal performance last February outside Vancouver – did not provide much good fortune Friday, when he finished 13th out of 16 in slopestyle qualifying.

Sunday night’s final started with a bit of a thud, too, at least by White’s otherworldly standards. While he landed a clean first run, White appeared to struggle maintaining his speed, which in turn hampered his ability to land some of his bigger spins – including his double McTwist 1260.

Consequently, he found himself in unfamiliar territory – in second place with a score in the 80s. Lago, of Seabrook, N.H., set the early pace with a first-run 92.

“I don’t want to say nerves got the best of me, but,” White said. “Sitting in second is not always fun. … Basically, from watching Scotty’s run, it really impressed me and I knew the only way I was going to top that score was to pull out all the stops and land my best trick.

“I was a little nervous because I hadn’t really tried it until today. There’s something about that trick, I only have so many in me.”

He only needed one on this night. It was nearly flawless.

White opened his second run with a stylish back-side air, two consecutive 1080s and a front-side 540 before pulling off the double McTwist 1260 and a back-side alley-oop rodeo.

“I knew Shaun was going to throw down. It’s Shaun White,” Lago said afterward. “He deserved [the high score].

“To be honest, that [first run] was one of the better runs I’ve ever put down. It was better than the [bronze-medal winning] run I put down at the Olympics. I couldn’t be any happier.”

Especially after how far he has come. Just a few short weeks ago, Lago was severely injured while filming “The Art of Flight” in the backcountry outside Jackson Hole, Wyo. He fractured his jaw, which had to be wired shut, cracked a bone in his chin and chipped a few teeth.

“To be honest, I didn’t really make up my mind until two days before. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to compete or not. A couple doctors told me I shouldn’t,” Lago said. “Considering the circumstances, I’m way pumped.”

The hard elastic bands stabilizing his jaw Sunday did not prevent Lago from taking a big swig of champagne on the podium after dousing his fellow competitors.

Vito, who vaulted into the Top 3 on the final run, was happy to share in the celebration.

“It feels amazing, like the monkey’s off my back now,” said Vito, who picked up his first Winter X medal in his sixth appearance. “I’ve been coming here every year and wanting [to medal] so bad, almost too much.

“I love the pressure and the feeling of a contest. I was fired up to put down a run I could be happy with. … I threw down the run I wanted and got rewarded for it. I can’t complain at all.”

White was rewarded with a record 16th Winter X medal and an 11th gold.

So, what will he be doing next?

“[Eating] Cough drops,” White joked.

jmaletz@aspentimes.com

A total of 33,400 spectators visited Buttermilk on Sunday, the final day of competition, helping set a new four-day attendance record of 114,200. The previous high, 85,100, was set in 2001 in Mount Snow, Vt.

Here are this year’s daily totals:

• Thursday, 15,400, record Winter X Games Thursday attendance

• Friday, 23,600, record Friday attendance for Winter X Games in Aspen

• Saturday, 41,800, record one-day attendance for Winter X Games

• Sunday, 33,400, record Sunday attendance for Winter X Games


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