Winter X: White wins fourth straight pipe title
ASPEN, Colo. – Shaun White’s sense of fashion was impeccable.
His snowboarding wasn’t bad, either.
Wearing a black leather jacket and skintight pants, White captured his fourth straight superpipe crown at the Winter X Games as he held off Scotty Lago by performing his signature trick, a difficult maneuver few can do.
White, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, cemented the win on his second run Sunday night, pulling out the Double McTwist 1260 in which he launches himself high above the pipe, then does two head-over-heels flips and 3 1/2 rotations.
That was good enough to overtake Lago, who led after the first run despite competing with a broken jaw. Louie Vito was third.
Hard to believe this was White’s first major competition since winning Olympic gold in Vancouver.
Just as stunning, it’s only the second time since the Olympics he’s even attempted the dangerous McTwist. He nailed the trick in practice the other day, and figured it was competition ready.
“I knew the only way to top Scotty’s score was to pull out all the stops and land my best trick,” White said. “I was a little nervous.”
Before Sunday, White never really had to turn to the McTwist for a comeback win.
Usually, he’s only brought it out for victory laps.
But the trick was spot-on when he needed it most.
“I’m happy that thing is in my back pocket,” White said.
Almost as sharp as his performance was his garb. The Burton-created outfit was his design, his inspiration.
“It started out as a joke in a way because I sitting around talking about how we have a women’s line for the White Collection, but we never get to promote it right because we don’t have any women’s riders for the stuff,” White said. “I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to do it.’ It feels like what I’d wear in street clothes.”
With the victory in hand, White leisurely traversed the pipe on his final lap, spraying snow at the bottom.
A fitting end to a rocky Winter X.
He captured his 11th gold medal at Winter X, but the legend of White took a ding when he washed out of the slopestyle competition, failing to qualify for the finals Sunday afternoon.
White won the slopestyle event in 2009 at Winter X, but his game slipped as he focused on the pipe in the lead-up to the Vancouver Games.
“I’m proud to show up and take a beating in slopestyle and then come here and grab a four-peat,” White said. “I knew going into slopestyle what I was up against. I went anyway because I wanted to get that fire lit. It takes so much for me nowadays to get fired up about something.”
A young group of riders led by teenager Sebastien Toutant will definitely stoke that fire, showing White just how much catching up he has to do in the event that tests a rider’s ability to handle a variety of terrain by rolling over rails, jumps and other obstacles.
“I’m sure if he practices more, Shaun White will be able to do good in slopestyle as well,” said Toutant, who edged fellow Canadian teen Mark McMorris in the finals. “When he learns all those double corks, he’s going to be able to put it down every run. I can’t wait for him to get back on slopestyle. He’s a rock star.”
White, of Carlsbad, Calif., looked at the superpipe as an opportunity to redeem himself.
This may provide even more motivation: There’s a strong probability the International Olympic Committee will add the snowboarding slopestyle event – along with skiing slopestyle and skiing halfpipe – to the program for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
White has some polishing to do.
“I’m probably at the bottom of the barrel in slopestyle, trying to catch up with where they’re at,” he conceded.
It’s strange to see White so vulnerable on a snowboard, so human.
“I don’t think he’s ever been far behind in anything in snowboarding,” said Kevin Pearce, who’s serving as an analyst as he recovers from a traumatic brain injury he sustained just over a year ago while practicing in the halfpipe. “I think that’s exciting for him, because he’s never had anything to work on. He’s unstoppable in the pipe.”
Lago was competing despite breaking his jaw, cracking a bone in his chin, chomping through his tongue and chipping teeth two weeks ago when he landed awkwardly from 40 feet in the air while filming scenes for a movie.
He grabbed the early lead with one of the best runs of his life.
“I think it was better than the Olympics,” said Lago, who won the bronze in Vancouver. “I was fired up. But I knew Shaun was going to throw down. That’s Shaun White.”
True to form, White went big on his second attempt, pumping his fist after a nearly flawless run that included the McTwist.
“I think if you believe in your tricks enough, they come through for you,” White said.
In other finals on the last day of Winter X:
– Snowmobiler Tucker Hibbert, of Goodridge, Minn., won his fifth straight crown in SnoCross.
– Rookie Enni Rukajarvi of Finland captured the women’s snowboard slopestyle final.
– Despite both crashing on the final jump and sliding across the finish line, Canada’s Kelsey Serwa ended the reign of France’s Ophelie David in women’s skier X. Serwa bruised her tailbone and scraped her nose in the win, while David didn’t seek medical treatment.
– John Teller, of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., held off defending champion Chris Del Bosco in men’s skier X, while Casey Puckett, of Aspen, ended up with the bronze.