White wins second straight gold in Aspen Winter X superpipe
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” In a near whiteout, Shaun White was flying on autopilot.
And when he landed at the bottom of the superpipe Sunday night at Buttermilk, on the very last run of this year’s Winter X Games in Aspen, the Flying Tomato knew the gold medal was his.
“You just hit that first hit and kind of zone out,” said the 22-year-old, who with a clean, 91.66-point third run became the first snowboarder ever to win back-to-back superpipe golds in the 13 years of Winter X. “I knew I had it. I knew I could put it down.”
Lights. Camera. History.
After bumping White off the top of the podium at the European Open earlier this month, friend and rival Kevin Pearce of Vermont settled for a well-deserved silver, just one point back of White. Finland’s Antti Autti ” who dethroned White in the pipe in 2005 ” took the bronze, bumping Vermont’s Elijah Teter with an 87.33-point third run.
The gold was White’s 17th X Games medal overall ” for both summer and winter ” and marked the third time he has won both the men’s slopestyle and superpipe at Buttermilk in the same weekend.
The victory also came in near identical conditions to last year’s pipe final when White blew away the field with three runs that topped 90 points. Sunday night, another gold would not come nearly as easily.
Up against history and a field of the world’s best men’s pipe riders, White, the top qualifier, fell on his first two runs and was left with one last chance to try to defend his pipe title.
Lest anyone forget, one run is nearly always one too many for White to prove why he is the biggest name in snowboarding.
“It was tough having to sit at the bottom of the mountain and watch Shaun take the final run,” said Pearce, who nearly topped his 90.66 second effort before falling on the final trick of his final run. “I know he always throws it down in the end. It is not a position I want to be in ever again.”
After opening with a technical alley-oop rodeo backside 540, White threw a 900 and back-to-back 1080s before closing with a stylish McTwist he seemingly could have done with his eyes closed. He had fallen on an attempted 1260 at the end of his first run, then sketched out on the landing on the second 1080 in his second run, prompting him to toss his helmet and goggles in disgust at the bottom of the pipe.
At that point, sitting in seventh place, White admitted he started to wonder whether there were other forces at work, conspiring against him.
“I was getting nervous, wondering if it’s real, thinking wow, maybe it is kind of cursed,” he said of the fact that no snowboarder had ever defended the gold in the Winter X superpipe. ” … Last time I tried to do this I ended up winning qualifying and doing my practice and hurting my knee, and it took me out a whole season. That was in the back of my mind, and after I fell on my first two runs I felt angry just standing there.”
White made his own luck, though, on this night. While he admitted that his final run ” sans the 1260 ” wasn’t the “amazing” run he had honed in practice, he said all that mattered was that it was good enough to win.
“I forgot what trick I was going to do on my second-to-last hit because I was so focused on doing that 1080,” he said. “… The 12 would have been nice, but judging by these conditions, and I was watching Kevin’s run before and he had a tough time getting through that flat bottom there. I just didn’t want to do it. It was my third run of the night, it’d been snowing all night, and the pipe was filling up.”
Pearce, sporting a fresh black eye and some stitches from a fall in slopestyle practice, refused to take the bait from reporters when asked whether he thought his run was better, or if White’s win was the result of star treatment by the judges.
White himself praised Pearce’s performance, adding that he was jealous of his opening trick, a stylish frontside air. Pearce’s run also featured two of the biggest back-to-back 1080s of the night.
“Kevin’s run was unreal,” White said. “I just love his first hit. I want to copy the trick, but I can’t. It’s too cool.”
One thing is for certain: White certainly loves a challenge.
“That last run pressure does it for me,” he said. “I either go bigger or … I don’t know, it’s something about being younger and being in that position where I really wanted to do my best and perform the way I know I can. Yeah, it just kind of comes out of me.”
1. Shaun White / Carlsbad, Calif. / 91.66
2. Kevin Pearce / Norwich, Vt. / 90.66
3. Antti Autti / Rovaniemi, Finland / 87.33
4. Elijah Teter / Belmont, Vt. / 86.00
5. Mason Aguirre / Mammoth, Calif. / 76.00
6. Steve Fisher / Breckenridge, Colo. / 75.33
7. Andy Finch / Truckee, Calif. / 70.00
8. Louie Vito / Bellefontaine, Ohio / 55.00
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