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Thursday, January 22, 2009
People's Choice


Travis Rice is enjoying some payback. Payback to Torstein Horgmo after losing to him last year at the X 12 Big Air. Payback to Mikkel Bang after losing to him last year at the Munich Air & Style. Or maybe just call it a good hearted comeback after Rice had a near-fatal encounter during Slopestyle practice.

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:

Torstein Horgmo:

Run 1: Switch back 1080
Run 2: Switch back 1260

Andreas Wiig:

Run 1: Frontside 1080
Run 2: Double cork frontside 1080

Winner: Horgmo

Face off #2:

Mikkel Bang:

Run 1: Switch backside 1260, clean.
Run 2: Switch backside 1260, clean.

Travis Rice:

Run 1: Double backflip to backside 180, clean.
Run 2: Double back 1080, revert out.

Winner: Rice

Final Round:

Torstein Horgmo:

Run 1: Switch backside 12, almost over rotated into 1440, washed out.
Run 2: Switch backside 12, clean.

Travis Rice:

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.