Burke soars to ski superpipe three-peat in Aspen
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN, Colorado ” Sarah Burke has quite a flare for the dramatic.
Before 2007’s Winter X Games ski superpipe final, she broke her nose in a practice-run fall. One year later, Burke hit the deck on an attempted 900 on her first of two runs, one ski fell off and she fell more than 15 feet to the flat.
In both cases, she overcame the odds to claim gold.
Friday was no different.
The 25-year-old from Whistler, British, Columbia, the last to drop into the Buttermilk superpipe in the third and final run of Friday’s finals, needed some late heroics to vault from second to first. In typical fashion, she saved her best for last, pulling off a nearly flawless run that included a 900 off the first hit and a 720 off the last. The run garnered a 93.33 from judges ” the highest score in event history ” which was more than enough to propel her past Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club rider Jen Hudak.
“I made myself really nervous, and made my dad really nervous,” joked Burke, who has finished on the podium at Winter X every year since women’s ski superpipe was instituted in 2005. “It was super stressful, but when you pull it together at the very end, there’s nothing quite like that feeling.”
Burke dominated last year’s final, winning by more than 10 points. This time around, she was pushed all night. Hudak, a Connecticut native who lives and trains in Aspen during the winter, landed her first 900 a few weeks ago. Friday, she put the trick to good use early.
Hudak landed a 900 off the first hit of her first run, then pulled off an alley-oop 720 at the bottom of the pipe, throwing both hands in the air as the crowd erupted. The two-time Winter X bronze medalist leapt into first with a score of 92.66.
So much for playing it safe.
“I’ve been on this whole mission to have no safety runs,” Hudak said. “I just go for it. I ski better when I do that.”
“It was gutsy of her to take her biggest trick and put it first,” AVSC freestyle coach Elana Chase added. “[Being conservative] was not even an option. Tonight, we were going for gold or nothing. But silver is awesome.
“It’s good for the little guys. They get to see someone in their program and what they can achieve. She got here through hard work, and it was great to have this happen in Aspen.”
Many figured heavy, wet snow that fell for much of the day would slow the pipe and severely hinder amplitude. But the clouds lifted, and so did Jess Cumming. The Connecticut native, the first to tackle the pipe, completed a solid run to set the early pace with an 84.
“I was ready to push and go as big as I could,” Cumming said. “It’s always hard to be the first one. … I’m glad the judges appreciated what the run was.”
While their first runs were among the night’s best, both Hudak and Cumming couldn’t improve their standing in the final two rounds. Hudak landed low on an attempted 540, and fell on her second run, then her right ski hit the deck and fell off on her third run. Cumming misjudged the landing on the final hit of her third run and landed hard on her head. Dazed but smiling, she watched the video screens intently as the final few riders tried ” and failed ” to knock her off the podium.
Hudak said she figured her 92.33 would not hold up.
“I know Sarah and know what she’s capable of,” added the 22-year-old, who topped Burke in a World Cup halfpipe competition in Italy in March 2008. “I didn’t land and say ‘Sweet. Now my job’s over.'”
She was right. Burke wowed the crowd and the judges and continued to rewrite the Winter X history books.
“I didn’t think about [a three-peat]. I was focused on competing and what I was doing tonight,” Burke said. “Now, I’m definitely liking it. … It doesn’t get any better than this.”
1. Sarah Burke / Whistler, BC, Canada / 93.33
2. Jen Hudak / Aspen, Colo. / 92.66
3. Jess Cumming / Wilton, Conn. / 84.00
4. Roz Groenewould / Calgary, AB, Canada / 81.00
5. Virginie Faivre / Montreux, Switzerland / 79.66
6. Angeli VanLaanen / Bellingham, Wash. / 76.33
7. Grete Eliassen / Salt Lake City, Utah / 69.00
8. Mirjam Jaeger / Zurich, Switzerland / 64.33
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