Superpipe three-peat at X Games |

Superpipe three-peat at X Games

Maddie Bowman celebrates her victory in the women's ski superpipe last year at Buttermilk. The 2016 Winter X Games will start Thursday.
Photo By Mahala Gaylord / The Denver Post | THE DENVER POST

ASPEN — With light snow falling and the bright lights of ESPN illuminating the night, Maddie Bowman launched the 2015 Winter X Games in record-setting fashion Wednesday.

Bowman, the undisputed ski queen of the halfpipe, won the Women’s Ski Superpipe for the third consecutive year as the X Games got off to an early start at Buttermilk.

“When I came into these Games, I realized I could do a three-peat,” Bowman said in the festive finish area after she won the first event of the 2015 Winter X Games. “I came out here tonight and thought about the skiing and how much I loved it.”

That’s when the Olympic gold medalist dropped into the gigantic halfpipe at Buttermilk and dominated the competition in Aspen for the third year in a row.

“I think that’s the key these last three years,” the diminutive Bowman said behind a brilliant smile, accented by a delicate silver nose ring. “It’s the skiing and how much I love it.”

Known for her outgoing, jovial personality, Bowman was all business when she hit the halfpipe for the first of her three runs.

Wearing a stylish green hoodie, Bowman awed the crowd with amplitude out of the halfpipe and sophisticated tricks in the pipe. Her first-run score of 85.00 ended up winning the competition.

Ayanas Onozuka of Japan finished second after posting an 83.33 on her second run down the halfpipe. The bronze medal went to Brita Sigourney of Carmel, California.

“I think the girls skied great tonight,” Bowman said. “We’re going to continue to push the sport.”

Bowman, who is from South Lake Tahoe, California, was the only competitor to manage two switch 720s and a 900 in her pass through the halfpipe. The switch moves are backward moves; the numbers refer to rotations in the air.

“At the start, I was goofing around, watching everyone,” Bowman said of her relaxed approach before competition. Then, she said, her coaches offer a last bit of advice.

“My coaches tell me a little extra hint right before I drop in,” Bowman said. “And I just think of each trick at a time.”

Bowman, who dominated at the Sochi Winter Olympics in the halfpipe, said that she embraces all of the opportunities of a pro skier.

“I love to do the whole media thing and all,” she said. “You’ve got to remember the skiing though. That’s the most important part.”

With her third consecutive Winter X gold in the Women’s Ski Halfpipe, Bowman joined the legendary Sarah Burke as the only skiers to win three in a row in the event.

“Sarah … I looked up to my whole life, and I still do – especially tonight,” Bowman said of Burke, the Canadian pioneer of the women’s halfpipe. Burke, a familiar figure on the X Games podium in Aspen, died in 2012 after a training accident in Utah.

Burke was instrumental in getting the women’s halfpipe event into the Sochi Winter Olympics.

That’s where Bowman won the first Olympic gold medal in the sport.

“I feel truly honored and speechless,” Bowman said of joining her skiing idol in X Games history.

Bowman’s gold-medal run Wednesday night also caught the eye of David Wise, the defending Winter X and Olympic champion in the Men’s Ski Superpipe.

Wise watched the women’s competition from the finish venue at the base of the halfpipe.

“Maddie Bowman is a specimen of an amazing amount of talent,” said Wise, who won gold in the Olympic halfpipe as did Bowman. “She’s the only girl spinning both 9s (900s) currently and she had a solid switch 7 (720). That’s pretty unbeatable.”

Wise, known for his focused training regimen, said Bowman trains in a similar fashion.

“I definitely see that (focused training) in Maddie as well,” Wise said. “She’s having a good time, but she has a goal. She takes care of business.”

Today’s schedule at the Winter X Games at Buttermilk starts at 11 a.m. with Snowboarder X qualifying for men, women and adaptive boardercross riders.

The Ski Slopestyle eliminations, featuring defending champion and Olympic bronze medalist Nick Goepper of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, are set for noon.

The Mono Skier X medal event, with Aspen’s Josh Elliott, will start at 1:30 p.m., followed by the Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding event at 3 p.m.

Snowboard Superpipe eliminations for men will start at 6 p.m. today with Winter X legend Shaun White.

Two medal events are set for tonight.

Snowmobile Speed and Style will take off at 7:15 p.m.

The day’s schedule close with the featured Men’s Snowboard Superpipe finals at 7:45 p.m.

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