White rides to X Games halfpipe win | PostIndependent.com

White rides to X Games halfpipe win

Eddie Pells
The Associated Press
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Shaun White flies through the air on his way to winning the snowboard superpipe men's final round at the Winter X Games at Buttermilk Mountain outside Aspen, Colo., on Friday, Jan. 29, 2010. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

ASPEN, Colorado – Shaun White’s face smacked against the halfpipe, his neck snapped back and his helmet popped off and flew 15 feet in the air.

A sick wreck in practice Friday night that will be replayed and remembered – maybe even longer than his comeback an hour later that earned the world’s best halfpipe rider his third straight Winter X Games title.

“I’ve paid my dues for that trick,” White said. “But it’s worth it.”

The 2006 Olympic champion hurt himself on the newest, most unpredictable and most dangerous trick in his repertoire: the Double McTwist 1260, in which he hurtles himself above the halfpipe, does two head-over-heels flips and 3 1/2 rotations before he lands.

Sometimes he lands.

He did just that in his first run of the finals – a performance that gave him the winning score of 95.33, which turned out to be 1.67 better than Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland.

Sometimes he doesn’t.

That’s what happened in the final run, when he was going for the perfect score – a run in which he has to link two easier versions of the jump, then complete the routine with the Double McTwist 1260.

And sometimes it’s a near disaster.

Which was the story during that practice run, when he misjudged his position above the pipe and came down hard, jamming his face against the pipe and falling flat on the ice.

“That trick is just a beast of its own,” White said. “And on some days, it’s just tougher than others.”

He came off the pipe under his own power, but was checking his jaw and mouth to make sure everything was still there. He had a big, red abrasion on the left side of his face – one that looked worse hours later, under the glare of the TV lights. But minutes after the wreck, White was heading down the pipe again for another practice run.

“A weird decision,” he called it.

“But I knew I needed to make it and keep going and kind of push through something like this,” he said. “I don’t know. I’m a snowboarder and didn’t want to give up. I cracked my head pretty good. I was pretty dazed after that one.”

Between the end of practice and his first competition run, there was footage of him watching the wreck in super slo-mo, which makes it look worse than in real time.

“Oops. Oooh. Oh my God,” he says, as he throws his hands over his head while watching the gruesome repeat.

It certainly will take on a life of its own on YouTube and ESPN, the sponsor of these games that showed it no fewer than 10 times during live coverage of the event.

A good story because it ended well, but one that will certainly bring even more scrutiny to a sport that has been hit with bad landings and injuries over the past few months. One of White’s main rivals, Kevin Pearce, is recovering from a severe head injury in a Salt Lake City hospital after an accident that probably looked a lot like what the crowd saw Friday night.

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