VAIL, Colo. -- Shaun White rode to his fifth Burton U.S. Open halfpipe victory underneath sunny skies Saturday morning with textbook moves and a pipe run that has been holding challengers at bay for years. He is now tied with the Olympic halfpipe legend who preceded him, Danny Kass, for the most U.S. Open pipe wins.
"Am I tied?" said a laughing White in a news conference after the contest. "Well, Danny Kass is the man, so I've got to come back next year and try to take him out."
The story of the day, however, was the showing made by 14-year-old Japanese snowboarder Ayumu Hirano, who went as high -- if not higher -- out of the pipe than White. The score disparity (84 versus 92) between Hirano's and White's first runs, was not without controversy. Kevin Pearce, commentating live on the U.S. Open webcast claimed that Hirano's first run was as good as White's, and the Twitter universe exploded with protest when Hirano's first-run score was posted.
Asked afterward whether he was disappointed with his first-run score, Hirano smiled and replied, "Yes."
White stepped up and solidly won the event with his second run of the day, however, which included back-to-back double cork 1080s followed by a back-to-back double McTwist 1260 to frontside double cork 12 -- the last trick, White claimed, "was the best I've ever landed."
Hirano improved his score on his second run, but it wasn't enough to overtake White, and he fell on the final hit of his third run. One thing is clear: Hirano, who will turn 15 just months before the 2014 Olympics, which makes him eligible to compete, is positioned to become one of White's biggest challengers in the pipe in Sochi.
"I love watching him ride," said White, of Hirano, "because he's not the biggest guy out there but it doesn't make a difference. It's mindset and how you use the terrain. He's a great example of that."
White will not ride in any more competitions this season. "It's a big mountain I have to climb, going for halfpipe and slopestyle in the Olympics," White said of the decision. "I'm trying to take on both, so I need the practice."
This is the first year in the Burton U.S. Open's 31-year history that the event has been held in Vail, Colo. instead of its native home of Vermont. "It's bittersweet to leave Vermont," said third-place finisher Louie Vito. "It just had so much history there. But this is a new chapter, and it's just going to keep getting better and better. We had a good turnout of fans, which is one of the most important things as riders. It's always nice to do a contest in front of a lot of people that are just stoked to see snowboarding."
"I can honestly say this was the best pipe of the year," White said. "I don't really give that out that often. The field was amazing. The crowd was amazing. I'm pretty happy to end [my season] this way."
Because of White's decision to not compete in the final halfpipe contest of the TTR World Snowboard Tour season, Hirano, whose placement in Saturday's competition put him at the top of the Halfpipe Tour points board, has become the official 2013 WST Halfpipe Champion. White was the only person who had enough points to potentially beat him. Mark McMorris, who won the U.S. Open Slopestyle contest Friday also took the 2013 WST Slopestyle Champion title.
2013 Burton U.S. Open Men's Halfpipe Finals