Shaun White, 26, returned to form at the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships in Breckenridge, CO today by clinching the men’s snowboard halfpipe finals with a first run score of 95.25.
White, who’d only returned to his snowboard six days ago after an off-season knee surgery., qualified second in the semi-finals behind 2010 Olympic bronze medalist, Scotty Lago, placing him second to last in the start order in today’s final.
Qualifying 4th was Louie Vito, who has been on an extensive training program since 2011. Vito quickly showed the results of his efforts by stringing an array of tricks together that included back-to-back cork 1080s – securing a score of 90.0 and putting him into first place.
White then executed a near flawless run that included a very large and stylish backside air, back-to-back double cork 1080s and his patented double Mctwist 1260, to which judges rewarded a 95.25.
Lago followed, but washed out on his first trick in snowy, low-light conditions.
All eyes turned back to Vito on his second run, and seemed poised to make a run at White’s leading score. Yet the Dancing with the Stars contestant and last year Dew Cup Champion faltered on the last trick of an otherwise superb run, erasing any chance to overtake White.
“It wasn’t as good as I wanted. I didn’t get the snap I needed.” said a exasperated Vito post-run. “I’m hard on myself; you always want to ride well, but it felt good to get a solid start and carry it on through the rest of the year.”
White then dropped in for his second run knowing that Lago could still have one chance to defeat him as the top qualifier.
Trying to one up his previous effort proved tough, however, as he over-rotated on his last trick attempt, falling hard on his backside, sliding down the transition. Picking himself up quickly, the Carlsbad, California-native shrugged away the missed attempt with seeming nonchalance.
“I was going for double back rodeo. When I did, I threw it wrong. I tried to grab down but I was off axis. I’m happy I put the first run, that was my best run of the day.” White said.
That opened the window for Lago who many consider to be halfpipe riding’s most stylish. NBC commentator Todd Richards calls Lago “a rider’s rider.” Anxiously looking up from the bottom for the pipe were Lago’s entourage – a cadre of snowboarding compatriots the make up the “Frends” crew, including Kevin Pearce, of the few competitors to ever beat White in competition.
As Lago dropped in from the start gate the audience held its collective breath, anticipating a dramatic climax. Unfortunately for the Frends crew and fans of Lago, the Seabrooke, New Hampshire native stumbled on his first trick again, mirroring his first run shortcoming. In doing so, White’s victory was sealed.
“I come in to do well and to win.” White said in a post-event interview.
Asked further about the season to come with an eye on next year’s Olympics, White remained reticent about his bag of tricks.
“If I need new tricks to get that done then so be it. Everyone is getting better before Sochi and so am I.”
– James Sullivan