The women of competitive SuperPipe riding unleashed a historic air show under the lights on Saturday at X Games Aspen 2013. It opened with a trick that never had been landed in competition before, by a man or a woman, and ended with a rookie on the podium and the first three-peat in Women's SuperPipe as Kelly Clark successfully defended her title.
Last year's silver medalist, Elena Hight, set the bar early, throwing a backside 900 up high before unleashing a backside double alley-oop rodeo on the last hit of her run. The only other snowboarder who has this trick dialed in is Shaun White, and he's never landed it in a competition before.
The Women's SuperPipe final start was delayed due to a college basketball game that ran long.
"I guess I had a lot of time to hang out at the top and think about it," Hight said. "I was trying to decide if I should throw (the double rodeo) first run or not, but that's what I came here to do, so I thought I'd just throw it."
Hight's score of 90 points held strong throughout the competition until two-time defending gold medalist Clark -- spinning a frontside 1080 out of the gate, straight into a Cab 720 -- delivered a more technically difficult run on her final attempt to upset Hight by just three-tenths of a point.
Clark has had frontside 1080s dialed in for a while now, but previously she always threw them at the bottom of her run. Saturday night, she opened with the trick.
Asked whether her intention is to get back-to-back 1080s worked into her pipe run, Clark answered, "I would like to work toward Cab 10s, but really I just think it shows mastery of a trick to get it in up top. When the judges see me doing a Cab 7 out of a front 10 first hit, it shows that it's not something that I can just land sometimes, this is part of my run. Tonight was the most technical run I've ever put together."
The victory earned the 29-year-old Olympian the discipline's first three-peat and a 10th X Games medal.
The night was also a boon for Arielle Gold, who came into X Games Aspen hot off of a win at the FIS World Snowboarding Championships in Canada last week. Though she started off on the alternate list, when an injured Gretchen Bleiler dropped out, Gold was first in line to fill the vacant slot.
With a solid 900 up high, the 16-year-old X Games rookie capped her run with a Cab 900 to lock down third place and the bronze medal.