Despite Hollywood-level hype surrounding Shaun White's return to skateboard competition Friday night at the Nokia Theater, it was two-time and defending Skate Vert champion Pierre-Luc Gagnon who did what skateboard insiders figured he would all along: win the first ever Vert three-peat in X Games history.
Gagnon, a relentlessly technical skater known for composing entire runs of tricks that many of his competitors can't even do, was initially put in a corner by White, who threw the first stellar run of the evening on his fourth attempt of the final jam session. In a run peppered with back-to-back 540 variations, he ended with a frontside heelflip 540 body varial -- a trick never seen at X Games. The run scored a 44 to put White in the lead.
It was in the fifth round of runs that Gagnon, who had already garnered a 47 in his fourth run, put the hammer down. In a run that included a variety of 540s, he not only put down a 720 kickflip body varial; he adjusted the board mid-air just microseconds before returning to the transition, saving what appeared to be a certain crash. The run earned him a 46, for a total of 93 points -- eight ahead of White.
Needing a near-perfect 49 to retake the lead, and with the clock on the jam session ticking down, White dropped in one last time, but failed to complete his run.
"I felt really good in practice, nailing it every try," Gagnon said afterward, of the trick that earned him the win. "I knew it didn't matter if I didn't make the first few, but I'm super psyched I pulled it off."
The medal is Gagnon's sixth gold and fifteenth overall.