Torah combined both technical skill and style, and even more admirable, she did it all with a bum shoulder. "I have a pretty heavily taped shoulder right now," explained Torah, who has been battling a shoulder injury all season. "I had never had it taped up before, but it seemed to help a lot." Yes, it certainly did.
And then there was second place. If there was any question about the women being able to step to the larger 22-foot walls, Kelly Clark squashed any such thought. In fact, arguably the highest frontside air in any women's halfpipe competition may have been done by Clark tonight. Thing is, she was going so large that it was hard for her to keep it together afterwards, falling in both her second and third runs. When asked about her swollen eye from her last fall on her second run, she quipped, "You should have seen the other guy."
Gretchen Bleiler also had a very unfortunate fall in her second run. Spinning frontside on her first hit, she came down hard on the lip, took a scorpion down the tranny, then smashed her head in the flat bottom. It was the scariest moment of the night, and the entire crowd stood still, waiting to see if she would rise. As Torah said, "We all just kept turning our heads. I hated that they kept replaying it. " She eventually did rise, even with a smile, but chose to call it for the night, skipping her final run.
The final breakdown:
1. Torah Bright
2. Kelly Clark
3. Hannah Teter
4. Ellery Hollingsworth
5. Kaitlyn Farrington
6. Gretchen Bleiler
Other items of note:
•Torah's winning run: backside 360, switch backside 720, mctwist, air to fakie to cab 720
•No other female rider other than Torah is doing the switch backside 720. "A few of the guys are doing it," said Torah, to which Kelly Clark added: "Very few."
•This marks the first year at X Games that women received the same prize purse as the men. When Kelly Clark was asked about how she felt about this new change, she said, "There is no real difference in the amount of effort you put in or the amount of time spent doing it, you should be rewarded the same."
•Ellery Hollingsworth said she had a secret trick she was going to bust out tonight. The trick? A cab 10, which she did attempt, but couldn't quite pull it around.
Looks like the snow has let up a bit. How are you feeling about the conditions right now?
It's been snowy and foggy and rainy, but I don't know--right now the pipe is really good, so it's been working out. Hopefully the weather will hold up.
So what's your strategy tonight?
Uh...hopefully I'll just have a big run, the crowd will go crazy, and maybe I'll throw down a special trick.
Special trick? What's that?
I can't tell you. It's a secret surprise.
What about the 22-foot walls? How's the upgrade treating you?
I love it, this is the best pipe I've ever ridden. I was in Park City before this, and their pipe was massive--like the biggest pipe ever. So coming here it was a relief that it wasn't as big as Park City.
Wait, doesn't Park City have 22-foot walls as well?
Yeah, it does but...I don't know...it's just bigger. Everyone who was there and then came here said the same thing.
So this is your first pipe finals at X Games, right?
Yeah, last year was my first X Games and I took 7th in pipe, and they only take six for the finals. So this is my first one.
How does that feel?
It's so exciting! I got to ride in practice last year at night, and this year's is way better because I get to compete--under the lights and with the crowd there's just so much energy.
What do you think about your competition tonight?
I think all the best riders are here in the final and it's going to be a good contest.
Having any issues here at practice? Are you able to keep your speed?
Yeah, we've got our wax tech up here from the US team, and he put some speed on my board, so I've good on speed so far.
And finally, who do you think should have won the big air last night? Did Travis deserve gold?
I thought Mikkel Bang should have won. His switch back 12s were perfect.
She did ride the first day of slopestyle practice, but the injury proved too much and Jamie did not feel comfortable continuing. Though unlike many of the riders who have complained the slopestyle course this year to be too tight without enough setup time, her agent Amy Stanton said that "Jaime really loved the course and thought it was super fun. She really, really wanted to compete."
Jaime will stick around Aspen until Sunday. Her next appearance will be in Las Vegas at the Transworld Riders Poll, where she is up for rider of the year.
It seemed the only person who could beat Chas today was Chas, and he cemented the fact when his second run tied his first. While many riders were having trouble clearing jumps, Chas kept putting Cab 9s, backside 9s and backside rodeos down in the sweet spot. "This is my 12th contest this season," Chas said. "I feel like it's finally starting to get consistent for me."
If Guldemond qualifying first was a surprise, just as surprising were the riders who didn't qualify. Pearce, Rice, Davis, Horgmoall the riders you'd expect to see at the top of the listall fell short of the 8th cut off spot.
Even Shaun White, who has qualified for every event he's competed in at X Games, barely squeezed into the final round, landing 8th and pushing out Pearce.
Would the outcome have been different had the weather been better? Some will argue it absolutely would have been differentbut then, does it really matter? After all, this is snowboarding. Inclement weather is part of the game. Yes, the course was slow, visibility was poor, and it took everything the riders had to put together a clean runlet alone a brilliant one. But in the bigger picture, being able to adapt to conditions is a talent no less important than spinning a cab 10 on a sunny day.
So weather may have had something to do with Chas Guldemond's win today, but he still he earned itand earned it well.
Here's the final cut:
1. Chas Guldemond
2. Scotty Lago
3. Peetu Pirroinen
4. Andreas Wiig
5. Jussi Oksanen
6. Mikkel Bang
7. Tim Humphreys
8. Shaun White
From the drop-in, circa Round 1, Megan Ginter (who rode away from Elims in third), commented on the conditions from the gate, "I can't even see the second jump."
Kimmy Fasani was the first to take to the fog, and on the flipside of her run she remarked, "Conditions aren't great, but today is actually the best the course has been. We're fighting the fog, but once you're in there, you honestly don't even think about it. The course is too tightyou don't have time to think about it."
Kimmy rode the bubble through three rounds, which was why she was so stoked to sneak into finals in the sixth of six spots. "I didn't have the run I was hoping for, but I'm so happy to finally make the finals. This is a long time coming for me." At the top of the slope, the ladies were lovin' on Fasani's hard work finally paying off. Aww shucks.
Noticeably absent from the comp was Jamie Anderson, who pulled out due to an injury sustained at the Burton Open. With Jamie out of their hair, the ladies dealt with other problems. For the leaderboard's No. 2, Spencer O'Brien, it was a nervous bladder. "I get so nervous, I can't help it! I don't know where to go. I'll go in the bushes," said Spenc as she ran into the woods before her first run. When you can't see your hand in front of your face, you can pretty much pee wherever you want.
Heading into Saturday's Finals, your leader, Jenny Jones is keeping it light. Her main concern? "The dry mouth, man, I'm telling you it's so weird, it only happens here. I can't get rid of it." Aside from that, Jenny says she's keeping the nerves in check. "Me and Kimmy have this thing. We look at each other up here when we're just kind of waiting our turn and getting a little anxious. We say to each other 'Hey, you like this. Yes, we like this, remember?' Sometimes all you need is a little reminder, you know? That's all it takes to remember that there's nowhere else we'd rather be, so we give our best and it goes how it goes."
Throwing his signature double backflip 1080, Rice proved himself to be the audience favorite--more so than Horgmo, his final face off challenger, who nailed a clean switch backside 1260. And tonight, the audience was all that mattered. Unlike last year, which was professionally judged, this year voting was done by text messaging, putting complete power into those who watched the event broadcast on live TV, or in person here in Aspen.
"America's got my back," Rice said as he accepted his medal at the podium, a reference to the fact that he was the sole American rider up against three Norwegians.
Indeed, they do. But Rice's win calls into question the legitimacy of text voting. In his first face off against Mikkel Bang, Rice received 92-percent of the votes, leaving Bang--who stomped two of the most stylish switch backside 1260s ever seen in competition--with a disrespectful eight percent vote. Not to take away from the double back 10, but Bang absolutely deserved more.
The same result came in the final round, with Horgmo also landing a clean switch backside 1260, but ultimately only receiving a 22-percent vote. And in this heat, Rice failed to cleanly land his trick--he reverted and hand checked. Were it professionally judged, Horgmo likely would have taken the prize. At the very least it would have been a much closer decision.
As Rice put it himself, "I think if I would have pulled my pants down and done a backflip, it might have been the same result, but yeah--text voting. Awesome."
In the end, you can't be mad at it. Travis certainly isn't. After all, this is democracy at work.
Travis Rice at the big air press conference, post-win:
How you feeling?
I'm f--king pumped man. I took a bit of a slam yesterday, walked out, stepped in front of a public bus, and I'm happy to be able to still be riding. Competing against the Norwegian team tonight, all those dudes threw down. Yeah, text voting, pumped on it.
Do you feel vindicated?
Yeah, definitely there was a bit of vindication going head-to-head against Torstein last year. Absolutely. And you know, I actually had two in one night because at the Air & Style in Munich Mikkel Bang took me out. But, yeah...he smoked me that night, so... anyway, it was nice to move past him tonight. I don't know if the 8-percent he got was all that deserving, but...
Was it like deja vu out there tonight?
Yeah a little bit for sure. The jump was totally different--a bit of a step down, flat takeoff, steep landing. I was trying hard not to slip into an epileptic seizure with the strobe lights in your eyes up there, but uh yeah, it was a sick night man. I thought it was going to be dumping. We walked out of our hotel at six 'o clock and it was snowing, but it cleared up nice for us.
What do you think about Norwegians?
Damn Norwegians man. They definitely make everything a little more difficult. For me anyways. No, I love 'em man, they frickin' charge, they stick together, I love 'em. They have a great sense of humor, a great country, and I hope to go there in a couple weeks for Terje's event.
What's about Torstein's run?
I mean, we all saw it. He stomped the sh*t out of it. Yeah.
When you're doing a trick like that, how does it feel in the air?
In the air is kind of like the more peaceful part of it. It's the riding up to the lip part that is nerve wracking. Because once you release and you commit to it, from there it's nothing but patience. You let it come around and hope you're right where you want to be. It's the nice and silent part, the float.
How'd that close encounter feel, from the channel jump yesterday?
That was, uh...that was sweet. I hit hard, landed flat, tucked and rolled out of it, thought I was broken, went down...but started moving my digits, checked my package, and it was all still there, so uh, yeah, I was hyped.
How do you feel about text voting?
Yeah, I think if I would have pulled my pants down and done a backflip, it might have been the same result, but yeah--text voting. Awesome. I reverted, Torstein stomped. I mean, it's kind of a funny thing--text voting. But we were in the same boat last year and it went the other way. So all I can do is be f--king stoked.
The complete play-by-play breakdown:
Face off #1:
Run 1: Switch back 1080
Run 2: Switch back 1260
Run 1: Frontside 1080
Run 2: Double cork frontside 1080
Face off #2:
Run 1: Switch backside 1260, clean.
Run 2: Switch backside 1260, clean.
Run 1: Double backflip to backside 180, clean.
Run 2: Double back 1080, revert out.
Run 1: Switch backside 12, almost over rotated into 1440, washed out.
Run 2: Switch backside 12, clean.
Run 1: Double back 1080, double grab, revert out.
Run 2: Double back 1080, hand check, revert out.
Other items of note:
-Both tricks--the switch back 12 by Horgmo and the double back 10 by Rice, were the exact same tricks done in last year's big air event.
-While the other riders used clear lenses, Mikkel Bang ditched his goggles all together. Go ahead, try rolling in at the speed you need to clear an 80-foot jump without goggles--tell us how that works out for you.
-This was the first time Bang had ever landed a switch back 12. He learned them tonight. And he landed five in a row. Three in practice, two during his heat.
So: don't worry about the Banger. He'll be holding it down just fine.
Tonight's new lineup: Three Norwegian vikings, one American cowboy:
1. Torstein Horgmo
2. Travis Rice
3. Andreas Wiig
4. Mikkel Bang
Approaching the first kicker (aprox 55 feet
from lip to knuckle), Pearce's board edge got caught in a rut on the
takeoff--this caused him to fly "superman" style face forward onto
the knuckle. He received a mild concussion, three stitches above his
eye, and a bruised wrist.
Though he will not be competing in the big air, Pearce still intends to compete in both slope and pipe. "We have him at the hotel resting upwe want to make sure he's 100-percent for park and slope," commented Pearce's agent, Sue Izzo.
So, you haven't been drinking since New Year's and you broke that last night, huh?
Yeah ... you know ... I had a few drinks. Today is the one day I'm not riding. I dunno, I've just been trying to heal my ankle up, and I feel like it's finally feeling better, so I thought I was allowed to treat myself a little bit.
What happened to your ankle?
Uhhh...stupid thing filming. I caught a close out, and jacked the ankle.
Where was that at?
Who were you filming with?
MFM and Friends, Marc Frank's movie.
Nice, nice. So tell me about this gear you're wearing. What's up with these Levi's?
It's the new 686 x Levi's collab. They did one for this season, and then this is next year's round. They're super sick manthey're comfortable, really waterproof, and they're actually real denim.
And I see they even have the Recco on there and all sorts of bells and whistles.
What about these poppin' red Nike boots? How's the swoosh treating you?
Nike's always good. These boots have my color wayI've got the red, navy blue and gold, the Cavaliers colors cause I'm coming from Ohio. Got some tiger stripes going with a "tiger bunny" theme. You know, they're fresh, they're comfortable.
What's the tiger bunny all about?
Just something funny that we wanted to do when I met with the designers, it just kinda of came up. Give it a lil' suhum suhum than just regular stripes.
So you're here to compete in pipe?
Yeah. And the pipe is super sick, I've just been trying to ease into because of my ankle. There's so many people who are killing it right now. The bigger walls are sick and it's a little bit steeper too. They did some dirt work, and it's just a bigger, better pipe.