Wiig goes big, tops White again
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Shaun White may not be mortal ” but his snowboard is.
The six-time Winter X gold medalist was jumping back and forth on his nose and tail in the start area to stay loose before the first of his two runs in Saturday’s snowboarding slopestyle final. Seconds later, he bent down to retrieve a piece of his board that apparently broke off.
White, who was visibly distressed, still managed to complete a solid first run marred only by a slight hand drag on a 900. But his score ” and a mediocre second run on a new board ” were not good enough to top “The Machine.”
Andreas Wiig’s opening-round 92 proved too much for the rest of the field to overcome. And, for a second straight year, the Norwegian was biting into gold as he posed for photographers.
Kevin Pearce (88.33) of Norwich, Vt., was second and White (83.33), the top qualifier, took bronze for a second consecutive year. Fins Eero Ettala (82.66) and Heikki Sorsa (77) rounded out the top five.
“I was glad to prove that last year wasn’t just one year,” said Wiig, who’s finished on the podium nine of the 10 times he’s competed in the X Games since 2004. “[The first run] was exactly the way I wanted.”
After qualifying sixth on Friday, Wiig was the fourth of 10 competitors to tackle Buttermilk’s revamped slopestyle course Saturday. He opened with a Cab (switch frontside) 270 onto the opening box, a backside 180 and three consecutive 900s ” the second his now infamous backside Rodeo 900. He fittingly left his biggest impression for last, stomping a frontside 1080 on the “Money Booter.”
“This course had more speed [than last year],” Wiig said. “There were bigger jumps, more time to hold grabs and tweak it a bit. … Yesterday, I did all spins and didn’t score that high.
“I was really stoked to land a first run when the light was good, and you could see the landings. Thank God I got that first one. … the sun became a factor because it got so low, and the landings were so shady.”
Of the riders to finish in the top seven, only one ” Sorsa, who unclipped his back binding and orchestrated a unusual and crowd-pleasing one-footer off the final jump ” posted a better score on his second run.
A late afternoon sky bathed the course in shadows, and low light took its toll. During one stretch in the second round, five consecutive riders misjudged their landings.
Wiig, the only athlete to win two golds at last year’s Winter X Games, still felt the pressure as he idled in the finish area, however.
“It’s nerve-wracking to watch the other guys go down,” Wiig said. White and Pearce were not available for comment Saturday.
“Your fate is in their hands. … A 92 was really good, but I was surprised [it held up]. Even I tried to beat that, but I couldn’t get that first Cab 10.”
The drama was in place.
White, the final competitor to drop in, could be seen feverishly prepping the edges of a new board, then staring intently out the window of the warming hut at the top of the course.
He was clean through two features, but spun out on consecutive landings and veered off line. His 60.66 was the second-best second-run score, but did nothing to help White improve on his bronze-medal position.
He glided to a stop in the finish area with little commotion and both arms dangling at his sides.
Last year, Wiig halted White’s four consecutive years of slopestyle dominance. Now, Wiig is starting one of his own.
“It’s been a year since my last one, but this feels better,” Wiig said. “It feels good to get gold.”
In a scene reminiscent of 2007, White climbed aboard a snowmobile while Wiig celebrated and quietly headed back to the top.
While fans cleared out, White took a third run. Ironically, he was flawless. Those six tricks would not produce a seventh gold, however.
For that, he’ll have to wait at least 24 hours. The stage is set for White to make history in Sunday’s superpipe finals ” Winter X Games 12’s marquee and final event. Should he win, White will tie Tanner Hall for the most gold medals (seven) of any athlete.
“[White’s] a real good rider,” Wiig said. “It just wasn’t his day.”
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