Shaun White wins men’s halfpipe gold with 1260 in falling snow
AP Sports Writer
ASPEN ” Nickel-sized flakes blotted out the lights, limiting visibility, then fell to the bottom of the superpipe, slowing everyone down. Howling winds whipped across the top of the pipe, blowing riders off-balance.
There weren’t even fans along the walls to pump up the riders. They were banished to the bottom because ice made it too slippery up top.
No chance anyone was going to land a 1260.
Shaun White isn’t just anyone.
White pulled off an improbable 1260 in difficult conditions, rebounding from a shaky performance in slopestyle the day before to win his record-tying seventh gold medal at the Winter X Games Sunday night.
“I was going at that wall and just wanted to spin as hard as I could,” said White, who tied skier Tanner Hall for most Winter X golds. “Pretty much riding away from that was the best feeling ever.”
White desperately wanted gold in the superpipe after taking bronze in the slopestyle. The three-time slopestyle champion was derailed by a cracked board in that event on Saturday, unable to bounce back even after finding a replacement.
The 2006 Olympic gold medalist was clearly on top of his game and his emotions in the superpipe finals, opening the first round with consecutive 1080s for 93 points in near-blizzard conditions.
While the conditions continued to deteriorate, White only got better.
The three-time Winter X superpipe champion followed with another solid run, nailing two more back-to-back 1080s and nearly completing the 1260 at the end.
Then White put together one of the best runs in Winter X history.
He started with a huge inverted 540 on his second trick, added consecutive 1080s, then a pair of 900s. White capped the near-flawless run with the improbable 1260, smoothly completing the 3 1/2 revolutions to the roar of the tightly packed fans at the bottom of the pipe, earning 96.66 points ” second-best all-time to the 97.67 he had in 2003.
“It was definitely a tough day in slopestyle for me because I had that broken board and it put me in the worst spirits ever going into pipe quals,” said White, who won his first Winter X gold since 2006. “I couldn’t land anything until the actual comp. I was really surprised getting in the finals and to be on the podium today was awesome.”
Here’s something you don’t see very often: ski racers snowplowing to slow down.
An ultra-fast course, fading light, a little wind and one gnarly jump wreaked havoc on the men’s and women’s skier X races, sending a dozen riders off the course and three to the hospital.
“You saw some interesting passes out there,” men’s gold medalist Daron Rahlves said. “A lot of guys paid the price.”
While there were a few crashes high on the course, racers colliding and crashing into the fences, most of the carnage happened on the penultimate jump.
It’s a step-up with a 50-foot gap and a landing area 24 feet higher than the take-off. Normally, the riders land atop the landing, then drop into a downhill section. But with a super-fast course and a slight tail wind, they were blowing past the landing, sailing an extra 40 feet down the hill.
Most of the bad wrecks came in the quarter and semifinals, before the riders could adjust to conditions that were far different than in practice sessions during the week.
In one women’s semifinal, all three leaders lost control off the jump, including two-time skier X champion Karin Huttary, who came down with a thud on her right side. Medical personnel attended to her for about 10 minutes on the course before strapping her to a sled. She was still hospitalized Sunday night with a pelvic injury.
The men had it just as bad, with three racers crashing on the same jump in one quarterfinal, including Lar Lewen, who had to be helped off the mountain to a hospital, where he was treated and released with a concussion. Juha Haukkala crashed on the same jump in the next quarterfinal and also was taken to the hospital for a back injury. He was still hospitalized Sunday night.
By the time the semifinals and finals most of the men’s racers were pointing their ski tips together in a snowplow before the jump, trying to shave off speed to keep from flying too far.
“That’s the thing about skicross: You’ve got to think,” silver bronze medalist Stanley Hayer said. “Alpine is (all out) every run. It’s not easy, but that’s what you’ve got to do. Here, you’ve got to think and that adds that other element, and some guys just blank out and just do stupid stuff. You’ve got to think and be patient.”
Oddly enough, women’s gold medalist Ophelie David didn’t seem to mind the tough course or the jump.
“Maybe for the men it was too fast today and they had to break, but for us it was super (good) to pass,” she said Ophelie. “It was a nice jump.”
Snowmobiler Aleksander Nordgaard was still in the hospital Sunday night with neck contusion after crashing during a snocross heat race on Saturday. He was expected to stay another night due to swelling in his neck. … Andreas Hatveit won his first Winter X gold in ski slopestyle, overcoming a fall on his first run for 94 points on a second run that included a backflip, a switch 1080 and a switch 1260 off the big kicker. … The mono skier X racers didn’t have nearly as much trouble on the same course or the jump that had given the able-bodied skiers so much trouble. “I saw the guys crashing and I know we ride a bit of a different race with the sit skis, but I felt confident at the start,” said gold medalist Kees-Jan van der Klooster. “I just raced my race.”
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