Despite Shaun White and Ayumu Hirano's absence, yesterday's superpipe finals at the X Games in Tignes went OFF. Check the full recap...
We were also expecting to see the 8 players from yesterday in the pipe tonight, but Peetu Piiroinen got replaced last minute by Taku Hiraoka. So the starting list looked like this, in order of qualification: Louie Vito, Scotty Lago, Iouri Podladtchikov, Christian Haller, Luke Mitrani, Arthur Longo, Benji Farrow and Taku Hiraoka. Peetu out. Injury at the training? We learned later from the judges that he prefered to keep his mojo for the slopestyle tomorow. Strange, but nevertheless the young Japanese rider - always the reverse order from the qualis - sent it huge on his first hit and appeared to be quite consistent, except maybe on his final hit, which was a double cork. But it's 'nearly local' Arthur Longo who gave the crowd its first occasion to go wild. He started off with a massive Front 10 and manage to keep his stratospheric amplitude all the way down, sending him high and clean, even on his Front dub. His score: 92. The crowd went mental.
Luke Mitrani bailed on his last hit - double, quite gutted. Then comes I-Pod, sent it huge all the way, including his back-to-back doubles, but scores… a surprising low 82 points. Vito is another one to complete his first run solidly, with 3 dubs including back-to-back with a back hand pretty much in his pocket. He scored 84 points for that run.
On his second run, Taku also landed his double perfectly on his last hit and improved up to 78 points, into 3rd place. Another big improvement from round 1 was for Luke Mitrani. At this point we wondered what goes in I-Pod's head: maybe something like "what can I do to improve my score?" His 4th hit gave the answer: bail as he was presumably trying a 1440. Vito's turn: his second double sent him a bit low but he managed to keep a fair amount of speed to finish off with a huge and stylish Crippler.
Scotty Lago stepped up to improve, went double with a double grab on his first hit, and then slowed down to just carve the rest of the course. Probably still hurting from his first run's impressive slam on the angle of the coping. A little later his fellow American rider Vito started things off with a double Crippler, went for a back-to-back double, and falls.
Hiraoka is up first for the final run, and went even bigger and better than his first run. A run consisting in three 10s, a 9 and a 12. Ouch! That scores… 86 points, second place. You could see a lot of nervousness on Longo's face waiting in the starting box for his last run. He put down his run, huge and stylish again, until his double cork attempt where he missed the grab and finished on his ass. He was still Gold medalist at this point of the night.
I-Pod was determined to do something special last night, and then did: after his (and Shaun's) Double McTwist 12, he sent a sick Cab 1440 double - rapidly dubbed the YOLO Flip - on his 4th hit, followed by… a coping hug and a scary slam. Smiling but clearly shocked, he started throwing his board at the pipe, before throwing everything he can into the crowd, including his board. Stoked to land this Cab 14? A trick never seen in contest. Or hiding his disappointment with this massive grin? It looked like if he had the choice between winning the event or landing this trick, he would have chosen the latter - the one that probably gives you a bigger place in the history books of snowboarding.
Lago was definitely injured and passed on his third run, so it's the final run of the night for Vito. The last man able to take the Gold off of Arthur's neck, and shut down the excited crowd pumping for le Français since his first run - or more precisely since the qualis. And it's a double fest. Double Crippler first, and back-to-back (Double Michaelchuk Vito's style), and then 2 more… But all Indies, except for the last hit. It was definitely gonna be a close call for the judges, who took something that feels like hours to finally give the Gold to the American, with a 92.66, 0.66 point better than Arthur. Merde. I mean, the crowd seems to say that, of course. Appart from papa Vito, exulting from the crowd clapping and shouting. Oh well, the closeness of the score could make Arthur feel surely a bit gutted, but he's certainly generally stoked to be Silver, just like Taku to be Bronze. "I had no pressure at all tonight," Taku said afterwards. Imagine: he was not even supposed to take part tonight until Peetu's cancelation…
Vito said after his win: "The pipe is always so good here. I was a bit nervous after the first run. But I'm super stoked because this morning I woke up feeling old because I just turned 25 yesterday".
Tomorrow 10.30 starts the Slopestyle Men's final, followed by the women's slope. Stay tuned!