Shaun White first in halfpipe qualifying, saves his new trick
Shaun White’s hands hit the halfpipe and his snowboard chattered across the ice. He stopped briefly at the bottom to check out his sore left ankle, then got ready for another run that would presumably bring the halfpipe world back into its proper orbit.
Only, it didn’t.
Shaken from his spill, White was less-than-perfect on his second trip down the pipe Saturday. And that brought about the most surprising result on an unpredictable day at the Dew Tour: The world’s top snowboarder finished second in the year’s opening Olympic qualifier, behind Greg Bretz, who all but sealed up a trip to his second Olympics.
"I was killing my run. I was, like, `Wow, I’m really doing it,’" White said, a few minutes after walking away from the base of the pipe with the slightest of limps. "I kind of got in my head and forgot what I was doing. I didn’t take off with enough momentum off the lip and it just kind of came around too slow and it happened."
He said he "hyperflexed" his ankle and is only in need of ice and rest to get going again. Unlike years past, however, White is trying for two Olympic golds in 2014, planning on competing in halfpipe and the newly added slopestyle event, as well.
That means he’ll be on the mountain again Sunday.
"It’s funny because this is just a stepping stone in the direction I want to go," White said. "I just want to continue to get better at riding and that will happen every single time I’m out there."
While he didn’t appear to take the result as much of a setback, it certainly made waves among the other riders, most of whom know they’re usually trying for second whenever White is on the hill.
"Yeah, nine times out of 10, he might win," said Louie Vito, also a 2010 Olympian who finished fourth Saturday. "But that one time, it could be at the Olympics, it could be anywhere, it could be today. It’s great for snowboarding."
On the women’s side, defending Olympic champion Torah Bright of Australia won, taking a strong first step in her quest to compete in not two, but three, events in Sochi. In addition to halfpipe and slopestyle, she’ll also be trying to make it in snowboardcross.
"I’ve got more tricks to work in, but I’m just riding to the beat of my heart these days," Bright said.
Two-time Olympic medalist Kelly Clark finished second and 13-year-old Chloe Kim, who isn’t eligible for the Olympics, was third.
American Devin Logan took the women’s skislope title. She’s also trying to make it in halfpipe, where she finished sixth on Friday.
The day’s most surprising win belonged to Bretz, a 22-year-old who opened the day with a high-flying bag of tricks that included a pair of double-flipping jumps to open the run. He scored a 91.4 — the same number White put up in qualifying, where he went with a less-challenging run.
Bretz fell hard on his second run, slamming his backside to the ground. Medical staff checked him out at the bottom of the hill and there was no concussion. He was a bit sore afterward, but holding the trophy, he was celebrating a result hardly anyone expected.
"I try not to expect too much," said Bretz, who finished 12th at the Vancouver Games. "I try to go out there and ride for myself, ride to my fullest and have fun. As long as I have a smile on my face at the end of the day, I’m happy."
He had plenty to smile about. White had more work to do.
As much as the fall, it was his second run down the mountain that showed signs of him not being at his best after getting dinged up. He wobbled ever so slightly after his second jump, then leaned forward to stay on his feet after the next one. He hadn’t planned on trying his signature Double McTwist 1260 — the one he fell on in the first run — twice but went for it on the second run, as well.
"I was going to do a backside 900 because I felt like I would’ve taken it," White said. "But at the last minute, I decided to do the Double McTwist because I kind of wiggled it on my first hit."
The landing was solid that time, but not enough to put him in first.
The second Olympic qualifier starts Wednesday at U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix, just up the road in Copper Mountain.