White Gold

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Shaun White on his way to his second consecutive Superpipe gold.

The contest was all but over. Kevin Pearce sat in first place, and Shaun White sat in nearly last place, with falls in his first two runs. But White qualified first in prelims, which meant he would get the last go at it. He had one more chance.

In a made-for-TV moment, White put it together and landed his run clean. He pulled into the corral, threw off his helmet and replaced it with a much cooler black headband. he needed to look good for this moment. Pearce knew a usurping was possible, and came over for a shoulder bump, bro hug sort of thing. They watched the scoreboard. The verdict:

White beats Pearce by one point. A 91.66 to Pearce's 90.66. White becomes the first athlete in X Games history to win back-to-back pipe golds. The crowd goes crazy. End of story.

Not so fast. Complaints began immediately. ESPN's X Games announcer Todd Richards said on live TV he didn't think White's run deserved gold. Several pro snowboarders watching—standing next to me—said Pearce's run looked better, bigger.

And so the controversy begins.

At the press conference Shaun was asked what he thought about Richards' comments that he didn't deserve the win.

"Todd said this? I don't know, I saw his run at Snow Summit. They keep playing it on TV, " began White with a joke. But then he answered seriously. "I don't know. I mean, it's competition, it's judging. Kevin rode amazing tonight, and I felt like I rode really well, and we kind of leave it up to those guys [judges] to know what they're doing. I'm not up there. I'd rather put down a run and leave it to them, I think their job is harder than mine. But I thank the judges for digging my run and my style. I mean, I hoped it wouldn't be like that—I put myself out there with that rodeo first hit. It wasn't the easiest thing. I mean, yeah. [Turns to Pearce] What do you think Kev?"

"I think you killed it man," answered Pearce.

"Thanks buddy. I think you shredded in Europe," said White back, referring to Pearce beating him at the Burton European Open a couple weeks back in Switzerland. "We hug it out either way," said White.

Whether or not Pearce believes White's runs were better than his, he certainly wasn't going to come out and say it in front of the press. That's just not the Pearce style.

davelehl.com

Kevin Pearce throwing down lines that made him the people's choice.

So let's break down both runs, hit by hit, and see how it looks on paper (er, computer screen).

Both are regular foot, both hit their frontside wall first:

Hit 1
White: Alley-oop backside rodeo
Pearce: Macking frontside air

Hit 2
White: Backside 900
Pearce: Mctwist

Hit 3
White: Frontside 1080
Pearce: Frontside 1080

Hit 4
White: Cab 1080
Pearce: Cab 1080

Hit 5
White: Frontside 900
Pearce: Frontside 900

Hit 6
White: Mctwist
Pearce: Did not have a sixth hit.

On paper, looking at technical merit, White is the winner. He fit in one more hit than Pearce, and rather than straight air the first hit, he did a very stylish and solid alley-oop back rodeo. But that's paper. When you watch Pearce's run, you see that he was clearly going bigger. His back-to-backs were much greater in amplitude, and arguably, style overall. But the judges went with White by a one-point margin. Who do I think should have won? It's a tough call because Shaun did get that extra hit and his run was more technical, but based on initial impression and just good ol' gut instinct, I'm going to side with Pearce. So there it is. Let the fire begin.

The final superpipe breakdown
1. Shaun White
2. Kevin Pearce
3. Antti Autti
4. Elijah Teter
5. Mason Aguirre
6. Steve Fisher
7. Andy Finch
8. Louie Vito

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