It’s was a heated men’s snowboard pipe finals at the Nike Open, with I-Pod putting the heat on Shaun White, and Louie Vito fighting for the win himself.
Iouri Podlachikov came out charging in his first run with what could have easily been the contest winner.
His run went like this: backside air, crippler, backside double cork 12, front double 10, cab double 10 and backside rodeo. It was the best run of the night until he sketched the landing of his last trick and ended up slamming on his face and coming up bloodied.
“It’s just mental,” I-Pod said. “I hope I didn’t break my nose, it’s really swollen up right now. And I broke my goggles so I rode without the goggles in my second run.”
White answered back with a massive backside air into a 900, backside 540, frontside 540 stalefish, a huge double McTwist 1260 and ended with an alley oop backside rodeo. His run scored a 95.00 and set the bar high, and was easily the biggest backside air a superpipe contest has ever seen. After that run, it was clear that White dominates pipe in a way that no other rider can compete with.
“I’m so happy to put that run down and make it count,” White said. “I did the double McTwist 1260 which is such a pain. That trick, sometimes it’s your best friend and other times it’s not.”
I-Pod answered back with the same run on his second lap and finished it clean to score a 90.00, but it wasn’t as strong as the first. After the slam he took, it was still amazing he was able to make a comeback.
“I was just all in,” I-Pod said. “I had nothing to lose. My face was hurting. My nose, I can slowly feel it again. That first run was like the best run of my life.”
Louie Vito was the last to go with the only chance of unseating White. He came out strong with a double crippler, Michalchuk, front double 10, cab double 10, front 12 and finished with a back 5. He scored a 92.75 to finish second and I-Pod was third.
“I’m really excited to put the runs down and to win,” White said. “Start the season off right.”
In the women’s field, Gretchen Bleiler came out strong in her first run with a crippler, back 900, front cork 7, cab 7, straight air, back 5 to score a 90.25. She took over the lead and held onto it throughout most of the 6-woman final.
Kelly Clark fell on her first run and wasn’t able to answer back to Bleiler, but she made up for it in her second.
After putting down a front inverted 7, cab 7, front 5, back 5, front 9, and back air, Clark scored a 91.25 and took over the lead for the win. China’s Xuetong Cai finished third with a 85.00 after huge amplitude and solid tricks from qualifiers straight through finals.
It was a tough break for Bleiler, who finished in second behind Clark.
“We were only one point away so that’s a really close one, so I’m bummed because of that,” Bleiler said. “But I’m psyched because it’s a beautiful day and the pipe was so amazing today. That will just fuel the fire to make sure we’re not so close next time.”
Clark is the defending Dew Cup champ, and this win puts her in the overall lead starting out the season. She was focused to come back in her second and final run.
“It’s not ideal to fall first run,” Clark said. “You really just have to stay focused on the task at hand. You have to think about exactly what you’re going to do and stay focused on that, because if you start thinking about all the external things you can’t control, you’re not going to perform.”
Another highlight of the Nike Open was Kevin Pearce’s return to snowboarding. While not able to compete, he got back on the board in Breckenridge for the first time since his traumatic brain injury while training for the Olympics. He was there from start to finish of the pipe finals, cheering on his fellow riders and doing a live interview for the NBC broadcast.
Shaun White and Kevin Pearce