‘This is the most amazing day of my life’
ASPEN, Colo. – When asked earlier this week about pupil Torin Yater-Wallace’s prospects in the Winter X Games’ men’s ski superpipe competition, Travis Redd paused before offering a response.
“I just hope he shows the world what he’s capable of,” the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club freestyle coach said.
The world was watching Friday night – both on live television and under the lights at crowded Buttermilk. The Basalt youngster made quite a first impression.
Yater-Wallace shook off some early nerves and a fall to complete two clean runs – the last vaulting him to the top of the leaderboard with just one competitor remaining. He watched from the finish corral as France’s Kevin
Rolland laid down the run of the night to capture his second-consecutive gold medal in dramatic fashion with a score of 93.66.
For Yater-Wallace, who finished with a 92.66, silver sure felt as good as gold. For Winter X 15’s youngest athlete, a lifelong dream had been realized – less than two months after his 15th birthday.
“I can’t even talk right now. I’m just in shock that I just did that,”
Yater-Wallace said later, sitting alongside Rolland and boyhood idol Simon Dumont, who finished third with a 90.33, “This is the most amazing day of my life.”
The evening did not start auspiciously. Flat light during the first run caused problems for much of the field, including Yater-Wallace, who landed awkwardly on his second hit down the 567-foot pipe, fell and skidded to a stop.
“There were definitely nerves. I went a little bigger than expected and had a little different takeoff on that second trick,” he said. “I should not have had any expectations. There was no reason to have pressure, but I’m only human.”
Moments before dropping in a second time, cameras captured Yater-Wallace gathering his thoughts as he stared intently at the snow.
“I was just thinking, ‘god, please let me land this run, even if it’s not perfect,'” he recalled. “I wanted to get one out of the so I could have a confidence boost.”
He succeeded, completing a technically sound run capped with an alley-oop double flatspin. The partisan hometown crowd erupted when an 87.60 flashed across the screen, putting Yater-Wallace in second place.
Dumont, who competed in his first Winter X Games when Yater-Wallace was just 5, held onto the top spot after two runs. The Bethel, Maine, product shook off a gruesome first-run fall (he ran out of pipe on his final hit, slammed into the decking and fell more than 20 feet to the pipe bottom) with a second attempt that featured two double corked 1260s and the signature amplitude that has made him a fan favorite.
“I got a little bit lower score than I expected,” Dumont said. “I had everything I needed to bring home gold. I just didn’t do it.”
The two-time Winter X superpipe gold medalist could not best that mark on his final effort. Yater-Wallace, his team Target cohort, took advantage.
The Aspen High freshman opened with an alley-oop flatspin 540, then upped the ante with a double corked 1260. After a 900 and corked 540,
Yater-Wallace, looking more like a wily veteran than a wide-eyed first-timer, finished once more with an alley-oop double flatspin.
He raised both poles in the air moments after stomping the landing. The athlete who passed some time Thursday night watching YouTube clips of previous Winter X pipe performances had created a highlight-reel caliber display of his own.
It took time for the weight of the moment to register.
“I still don’t believe it,” he joked. “I can’t tell you how happy I was. Waiting for my score was crazy. I didn’t expect to be in first.”
His grasp on gold lasted mere minutes. Rolland, who fell on both of his opening runs, wowed judges with a technical display ‹ and helped France capture its third consecutive victory in this event.
“I won last year but it was different this year. Š The pressure was just so high at the top,” said Rolland, whose 95.00 in 2010 was the second-highest score in Winter X ski pipe history. “Then I hit my double at the end and I was like,’Yeah, it’s done now.'”
Added Yater-Wallace: “It actually wasn’t too nerve-wracking (watching
Rolland). “That was the best run I’ve ever seen.”
Yater-Wallace, a former pipe forerunner here, was more than happy to have silver draped around his neck.
He now is the youngest male athlete to medal at Winter X.
“I’m psyched for Torin. It’s awesome to see him out there throwing it down,” Dumont said. “It’s not an easy thing to get on Target. We realized his
potential. He proved us right tonight.”
Added Rolland: “He’s incredible. Only when I was 15, I was about to do like a 900 in the pipe. He finished second at X Games, so it’s great. Congrats, buddy.”