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Monday, January 26, 2004
Updated: May 14, 5:27 PM ET
Steve Goes Fishing, Without Shaun

By Dave Finger
EXPN.com

Imagine perfect pipeline, with no Kelly. Piles of NBA draft cash, but no Lebron. A primo-flip and no Rodney. Riders on the Champs Elysees, but Lance is nowhere to be found.

Now, imagine the X Games SuperPipe finals without Shaun White, the 17-year-old action sports Super Hero who receives 600 fan e-mails a day, most of them from single girls.

Shaun is the Michael Jordan (circa 1996) of the polar transition. He's the new Tony Hawk of the X Games.

SuperPipe champion Steve Fisher liens into his first place position.
White has millions of dollars of contracts and fans around the world. He bought a house for his parents. Every contest he enters, he wins. He hangs on SportsCenter with Linda Cohn. He was the heavy favorite going into Monday's finals. More than a favorite. The only contest was to be for silver.

"Come on, Shaun's the man—and you don't toss those things out lightly," says bronze-medalist Keir Dillon. "He's inhuman, you know?"

At least we thought he was.

During prelims Sunday night, he decked on a Haakon flip at the end of his second run and injured his right knee. He woke up sore, but decided to take a few practice runs to test his knee. Ninety minutes before the start of SuperPipe finals Monday night, White came down off a clean McTwist and washed out across the flat bottom. He came to rest on the opposite wall.

And just like that he was out.

The sport lost an icon. The SuperPipe comp was now wide open.

Silver medalist Danny Kass might as well have one hand in his pocket—because he looked so relaxed—when he threw this mega-720 stale, Kass-a-roll style, on the first wall.
"It made it possible for us," says Mason Aguirre. "All of us knew that if Shaun landed his run, he was going to win it."

The loss of Shaun turned the SuperPipe finals into one of the most exciting competitions of the X Games. Suddenly, there was tension on every run, because any of the nine finalists could win it. And not the Will-Shaun-sketch-his-frontside-9-so-Kass-can-win-it variety. But the type of tension that comes with watching nine riders boost it out, one-at-a-time, best run takes all.

It could be the young Japanese blaster with rubber knees, a Mammoth kid with more launch than a moon rocket, or a 16-year-old with a mean crippler five and a bright-green full suit. And it's this wild card element that gives you butterflies each time a rider hucks down the 18-foot Zaugg-perfected walls.

It could be Keir, Danny, Ross, Steve or Andy.

The tension builds as the list of riders left to drop in dwindles. Tension builds because these riders are not to be measured against flawless nines, Haakon flips, alley-oop rodeos or goofy, charming responses to questions from raving reporters. For the judges, there's no high-mark, no standard and no easy decision. They have to earn their keep in fur-and-jewel-laden Aspen.

A KD roll up-and-out for the crowd, by headphone-fanatic and third-place finisher Keir Dillon.
"They definitely had to earn their pay," says Kass, who won the silver. "There were a lot of technical maneuvers, and a lot of great riding from all the guys."

So with the door wide open, the judges up their game, and so do the riders. And it's this energy that makes for a good show. A fantastic show. A show that highlighted Steve Fisher, a rider who's style, according to Kass, is: "a little bit Ross Powers, a little bit Lael Gregory and a little bit of Fish." And a little bit gold medal.

Can you picture it? No? After Monday's final, you can. It's the style of a new winner. With a new smile. On a new night. Wearing a shiny new SuperPipe gold medal.

NOTES & QUOTES ...
By George Crosland

NOTES

  • Swix techs were perched at the top of the pipe, offering last-minute wax jobs. Some riders took advantage, and some brought their own wax guy. You need maximum slipperyness to boost airs in the 15- to 20-foot range.

  • An injured Gretchen Bleiler hung out at the top of the pipe interviewing riders for ESPN.

  • ESPN provided the athletes with a heated staging area that most riders took advantage of since the runs were so far apart. Live TV meant at least three minutes between each run and the last three guys to ride, Kass, Powers and Fisher, were forced to wait even longer because their runs were broadcast during the 9 p.m. ET SportsCenter.

  • The crowd was suffering the 0-degree temp (-13 with the wind chill) together. Toward the end of the comp, they began dancing to the tunes to stay warm. Sal and the athletes even got into it. It was beautiful moment ... sniff, sniff.

  • On his way to the ESPN SportsCenter desk, an Argentinian girl asked Steve Fisher for his board. He told her he had an extra in his room and even told her where he was staying. Was Steve just being nice or making a move? We'll give him the benefit of the doubt ... He was making a move.

  • Immediately after winning Bronze, Keir received a congratulatory call from his old Burton rep on his Boost Mobile phone, on national television.

  • Danny Kass' playlist: Queen. Operation Ivy - "Freeze Up". NOFX - "Vanilla Sex". Destiny's Child - "Say My Name".

    QUOTES

  • "I thought I would go down the stairs. That's what people seem to be doing nowadays."—Andy Finch, on landing on the deck of the pipe.

  • "1080's are being thrown down all over the place. Steve Fisher's runs are absolutely amazing. Keir Dillon got his 1080. Kazuhiro has the most enormous McTwist and everyone is feeding off each other. It's awesome."—Gretchen Blieler

  • "I'm here to interview people and see Ross Powers, Keir Dillon and all the guys. It's going to be a sick contest."—Luke Mitrani, who barely missed the X Games cut.

  • "I'm stoked. I was tired of falling, so just to land my run is all that matters."—Keir Dillon, after bailing his first two runs, then making it to the podium on his third.

  • "I might do the Baker Banked Slalom and the Vans Triple Crown. I'm going to spend most of my time filming for Revenge Of The Grenerds, the new Grenade film."—Danny Kass, on his post-X plans.

  • "This is the real deal. This is the contest everyone looks for."—Steve Fisher, gold medalist.