Edge Wise is a snow blog edited by Adryan Roane Ritter.
"It's the only medal that I don't have," Nate Holland declared, still breathless after winning his fifth consecutive gold medal at Saturday afternoon's Winter X Games 14 in Aspen, Colo.
"Definitely my number one goal going into Vancouver is to win it." Holland adds, "I mean -- Olympic gold -- C'mon. You gotta go for it."
"Going for it" has always been one of Holland's specialties. The 31-year-old is a true veteran of the sport. Becoming the first ever Winter X Games champion to win five gold medals is a testament to his all-in approach.
But that same approach lost him an Olympic medal at Torino, Italy, in 2006.
"Torino was... ugh, Olympic dreams shattered." Holland told us during an interview we did with him last month.
"All it took was just a millisecond of my concentration to be broken," he said of the fall that cost him a victory. Shaking his head, he then added, "As soon as I fell in Torino I [was] like 'Well... Vancouver here I come. Four more years.'"
Indeed, Holland is on his way to Vancouver. But the deja vu from 2006 is starting to sink in.
Just a week and a half before Holland headed to Torino he competed in the 2006 Winter X Games XII, winning his first X Games gold medal. After that, Holland was the favorite to win in Torino. His 14th-place finish was a major disappointment to himself and to his country.
This time around he seems more comfortable with the pressure. "I know what to expect with media, security, even Secret Service popping up out of nowhere," he says. "All I can do is ride my heart out and see where I land, hopefully on top of that podium. I've been able to turn all those butterflies in my stomach into positive energy now."
Holland will join Graham Watanabe, Nick Baumgartner and 2006 Olympic snowboardcross gold-medalist Seth Wescott on the men's U.S. snowboardcross team this year. "It was a huge battle to make this men's SBX team," said Peter Foley, the U.S. snowboarding head coach. "Vancouver is going to be an incredible fight for the podium, and our guys are ready for it."
Though Wescott has an Olympic gold medal, he's never won gold at the X Games, despite seven appearances on the podium. For the past five games he's been playing second fiddle to Holland, including Saturday in Aspen, Colo. "Always the bridesmaid," Wescott joked during the post-race interview.
Whether Holland can carry his momentum all the way up to and through Vancouver will be determined on Feb. 15, when the Olympic snowboardcross men's competition will kick off at Cypress Mountain.
Funny nicknames aside ... these guys mean serious business.
Another American podium sweep at the Vancouver Olympics next month might be tougher than expected. That's one impression from Winter X Games 14, where the whispers of international threats became reality. Two of the biggest are Switzerland's Iouri "iPod" Podladtchikov and Japan's Kazuhiro "Kazu" Kokubo.
Podladtchikov came to Winter X Games 14 a virtual stranger. But when the U.S. snowboard team was announced last week in Park City, Utah, Shaun White mentioned Kokubo and Podladtchikov during the news conference. He'd seen enough of them to know they're serious contenders, even though White still considered his fellow U.S. team members the biggest threats.
Half Swiss, half Russian, iPod hails from Moscow and grew up in Davos, SUI. He is headed to the Olympics representing the Swiss snowboard team and has a solid leg up on some of his American counterparts, thanks to his fellow countrymen and mentor, 1998 Olympic gold halfpipe medalist Gian Simmen.
Kazuhiro "Kazu" Kokubo has been around for a few years, but like any skilled ninja, he tends to sneak up on his competition without warning. Although he's a veteran of the Olympic halfpipe competition, he was a long way from the Olympic podium. But not any more.
Both iPod and Kazu looked explosive tonight. Though White was still dominant and took the win with a total score of 95.33, iPod nabbed the silver with 93.66, and Kazu took bronze with an even 91.00. Meanwhile, White's U.S. Olympic halfpipe teammates failed to crack the 90 point bar.
With iPod and Kazu shutting out the rest of U.S. team on the podium, consider the Americans warned.
Iouri "iPod" Podladtchikov thrills the Aspen Crowd at Winter X 14 - Photo: Pesinger via Getty Images
Men's SuperPipe results WX14
1. Shaun White 95.33 USA
2. Iouri Podladtchikov 93.66 SUI
3. Kazuhiro Kokubo 91.00 JAP
4. Greg Bretz 89.66 USA
5. JJ Thomas 82.33 USA
6. Steve Fisher 74.66 USA
7. Luke Mitrani 57.00 USA
8. Louie Vito 46.66 USA
You all saw the face-plant Shaun took during pipe practice, right?
Holy crow. Shaun tested the waters during final's practice on his famed double-cork 1260 that he had held back during last night's qualifiers, and he ended up having a serious make-out session with the lip of the pipe.
"I like the hair flip right here" Louie Vito told Shaun as they watched the slow-motion replay of the crash together. "[That's] when I know you're o.k." The tiny dancer's comment wins my vote as the best line of the night, bar-none.
"The Flying Tomato"... er... "The Animal" (as he reportedly prefers to be called these days) walked away with only a scratch on his chinny-chin-chin, joining Simon Dumont in this year's Winter X Games 14 "Man-of-Steel" category. White got right back in the saddle and stomped the double-McTwelve in his next practice runs. Snowboard industry personality Dave Shiff tweeted a new bid for Shaun's nick-name after the crash, the "decking raspberry."
Shaun continued to outwit his facial raspberry and the fact that he was seeing stars by winning the competition with ease. Even injured, he isn't a match for. The game-changer of the night came from overseas, when Iouri "iPod" Podlatchikov and Kazuhiro "Kazu" Kokubo took second and third respectively.
What did we learn from the Winter X Games superpipe that we can carry into Vancouver's Olympics? Well, that Shaun's a gazillion years ahead of anyone else in talent and progression, that Shaun will most likely win the Olympics, that an American podium sweep isn't guaranteed, and that ESPN may have blown their load by airing Men's Superpipe Finals on Friday (when no one watches TV anyway) instead of keeping people tuned in until Sunday night. It is the Shaun White Games after all, now who are we supposed to care about?
The pipe hosts with the mosts. Kier Dillon and Sal Masekela. Courtesy of Sal's twitter @imsalmasekela
Let's all turn our attention to other super-pro's... like Snowboarder Magazine's"Rookie of the Year" Halldor Helgason or Mikkel (pronounced like nickel, as in five cents) Bang who both qualified top-seed in the Men's Slopestyle qualifiers today. It's amazing how Scandinavian dominated the snowboard slopestyle scene is. Must be something in their water?
A few American's snuck into the mix, including Chas Guldemond, Sage Kotsenburg, Eric Willet and Jersey Shore's (the place, not the show) Tim Humphreys, which means Sunday afternoon's snowboard slopestyle finals are going is going to be a full-on match up between the U.S. of A (f#!k yeah) and the Scando's.
Breck local Jen Hudak flipped the switch in Women's Ski superpipe finals, besting everyone's top-pick for the first place finish when she topped young buck Megan Gunning for the win. Long-timer Sarah Burke, who barely squeezed into finals, finished last, which is making some wonder if her competitive days are coming to an end. Even more so when she took the mic after competition and started hosting the Ski Big Air Finals. In her defense though, Sarah broke her back at last year's X Games, and must have overcome some serious demon's to compete here this year.
ESPN figured out that letting the American fans text in votes for the Big Air winners didn't make that much sense, especially when they pinned one American against a bunch of Europeans with funny-sounding names (and considering that no other countries were able to vote... and were probably sleeping during the live text vote time period). This year they brought back real-live judges for the ski and snowboarding big air comps, and hedged five riders against each other in a jam style format.
This resulted in one progressive banger after another being laid down for a solid 20 minutes, and it was Bobby Brown and T.J. Schiller that were one-uping each other trick after trick. Even though Schiller pulled out the never-before-done 1620 (four and a half rotations), it was Brown's switch double-misty mute 1440 that won the judges hearts. He got the first-ever perfect score of 100 out of a possible 100, something snowboarding's Shaun White was hoping to achieve first. Skiers 1, snowboarders 0.
The scene to be seen at last night was at the Galerie DeVore where the launch of Travis Rice's newest project, Asymbol.com, took place. Unlike private mansions like the Target Chalet, the Oakley house, and Monster house or the Nike 6.0 house, the Galerie DeVore will stay open to the public until Monday at 520 E. Durant Avenue in Aspen... or you can head on over to www.asymbol.com and appreciate more of Travis' genius as he brings together some of the most talented action sports artists and photographers in the biz.
Want to see a preview of what's coming up tomorrow on the party front? Check this twitpic from Frank 151 and Snowboard Mag's @larrynunez
Mantle photo credit: Matt Morning/Shazamm/ESPN Images
When will Lindsey Jacobellis get a break? Yes, she had one of the biggest fumbles in Olympic history in Torino when she started showboating during her winning run, pulling a method in the air and subsequently losing her balance and giving up the lead. Jacobellis lost a gold medal that 2006 and only brought home silver. There are multiple YouTube clips of her crash, all with thousands of views, and for many the image of her major mistake plays like a broken record in our memories.
Flash forward four years. Jacobellis, 24, has admitted her mistake and she's moved on. Which begs the question, when will we?
The short answer is simple. We won't be satisfied until she redeems herself on another Olympic stage. Her shot will come next month now that she's officially been named to the U.S. Olympic Snowboard team for Vancouver.
But here's the rub. No one seems to recognize Jacobellis' accomplishments, including five Winter X Games gold medals in women's snowboard cross, two world champion titles and 19 World Cup race victories. She has won the most events in female snowboard crosser history and it's not a record that will be beaten any time soon.
Nope, people only remember what happened four year's ago at the Olympics.
While the majority of the world takes notice of snowboarding every four years, endemic circles of snowboarding don't consider the Olympics the end-all be-all of competition. These athletes are on the snow every year proving their worth in heavily touted competitions such as the Winter X Games (currently taking place in Aspen, Colo.) and the Burton U.S. Open of Snowboarding. Snowboarders such as Travis Rice and Jamie Anderson may never have graced an Olympic podium, but they are held in the highest respect of the sport, more so even then some of our former, and current, American halfpipe Olympic medalists.
While the world watched the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Jacobellis was training hard for last year's super bowl of snowboarding, Winter X Games. She took first place, and made it look easy, just like she did at the X Games the year before.
Now, with Vancouver approaching, Jacobellis is in Aspen gunning for a gold-medal three-peat at Winter X Games.
"I have the same goals and expectations going into any competition," Jacobellis said. "I want to try and do my best, I want to win, and I want to try and represent my country well.
"I look at Vancouver as the opportunity to try and go for gold."
And when asked, like she has been every single day this season, if she is hoping to redeem her 2006 Olympic blunder, she just smiles and repeats, "I look at Vancouver as the opportunity to try and go for gold."
Point made. In her heart and within her own sport Jacobellis has already redeemed herself. And while a heartwarming story out of Vancouver would be nice, Jacobellis isn't competing with that in mind. She's doing it because she loves her sport, and loves to compete.
"If you fall, or make a mistake, you never stop trying until you cross the finish line because anything can happen," Jacobellis said. "And always really put your heart into what you love."
Watch Jacobellis' Winter X Games performance this weekend on ESPN2, Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.
Photo: How via Getty Images Sport
Welcome to the 2010 Shaun White Games...
Let's just get right into the meat of it, shall we? Carnage seems to strike a cord with action sports fans so we'll start there. Torah Bright banged her head in pipe practice on Wednesday. Reportedly that's her second concussion in three days. Besides the fact that this just plain sucks, this also means we won't get to see Torah's rumored double-cork 900 in competition. (Torah's the only women who has attempted the famed double-cork.) Let's hope that Roxy's Bright-est star heals up in time for the Vancouver Olympics. As much as we all want an American podium sweep it's no fun if there isn't any competition.
Simon Dumont wins "Most Brutal Crash" of Winter X Games 14 (so-far at least), when he suffered this during practice. What you are looking at there is photographer Chris O'Connell's sequence of Simon's boosty 15-foot double-cork to body-whomp on the lip of the pipe. Simon knocked himself unconscious for a good three minutes, then stood up and walked away. The man apparently-made-of steel was seen out and about later that night at local watering holes, and still plans on competing this weekend.
Athlete's confess that this year's X Games superpipe is one of the "iciest" pipe's any of them have ever ridden, which may account for some of the pipe-mishaps and the fact that you can see your own reflection on the 22 foot walls.
With two of snowboarding's best pipe rider's laid up in hospitals in Salt Lake City the men's pipe contest is ripe for Shaun White's picking. Shaun smoked the competition in tonight's qualifiers and... here's the kicker... he was holding back in a big way, opting to keep his infamous double-McTwelve's under wraps. Going into Saturday evening's finals Shaun sits in his favorite position and has the advantage of dropping last after other pipe finalists including Louie Vito, J.J. Thomas and Luke Mitrani. Surprisingly, Olympian Scotty Lago didn't land either of his qualifying runs and failed to make it into X Games superpipe finals.
The only non-American that got up in the mix was Swiss rider Iouri "iPod" Podladtchikov who displayed his double-corks for the first time this season here in the State's, making sure we know he will be a big threat up in Vancouver. Twinkle-toes Vito came through on his promise to do some "air dancing" here in Aspen with his second run straight-air where he managed an awkward quadruple-shifty-roll-down-the-windows maneuver. He somehow got the grab though, and the judges scored him into tomorrow night's finals over rider's like Danny Kass and Antti Autti.
Shaun's going for a three-peat this year and it's looking like he pretty much has it in the bag. Only a catastrophic mistake on Shaun's part would keep him from the gold, and bottom line is... Shaun doesn't make mistakes.
If you've been following any of the Grand Prix Olympic Qualifiers then you have a pretty good idea of what went down on the ladies snowboard pipe side of things in this afternoon's women's superpipe qual's. With Australia's Torah Bright out of commission this year's Winter X Games girl's pipe comp is shaping up to look like a sixth Grand Prix. Kelly Clark qualified first, home-town hero Gretchen Bleiler second, Elena Hight in third and so-forth. Although Japan's Soko Yamaoka was able to sneak into Saturday's finals in the sixth spot.
Sarah Burke barely squeaked through Wednesday night's women's ski superpipe qualifiers, actually edging out Grete Eliassen who was knocked off the bubble when Burke dropped for her last qualifying run. Burke made it into Friday night's finals along with Megan (young) Gunning, Jen Hudak, Rosalind Groenewood, Anais Caradeux and Mirjam Jaeger.
There was an "OMG" moment at the men's ski slopestyle qualifiers when defending champ TJ Schiller couldn't put it down on any of his three qualification runs, taking himself out of the game and leaving the doors wide open for top qualifiers Andreas Hatveit, Sammy Carlson, Bobby Brown, Jossi Wells and Tom Wallisch. All the hype falls onto the shoulders of the Kiwi freeskier, Jossi, who just won the last stop of the Dew Tour and is fighting through knee-pain to put on a show for the fans. Tune in Saturday afternoon for the Men's Ski Slopestyle finals.
Tom Wallisch dials it in for men's ski slope practice
The only actual "Finals" competition, where medals were actually handed out, was for the women's ski slopestyle. Defending champ Anna Segal shook things up when she pulled out of the women's finals just minutes before competition. "I've been off skis for two and a half weeks and this [massive X Games slopestyle course] is not the place to get back on them." That move couldn't have favored Kaya Turski more. Kaya has won virtually every other contest besides Winter X Games. She wanted that X Games gold medal bad and she got it. Breckenridge's Keri Herman took second and Grete Eliassen rounded out third.
Oakley's Sammy Carlson finally get's to un-virgin the virgin drinks. Legally at least. Welcome to club 21 Sammy.
On the party front Oakley and Red Bull came out ahead of the game, kicking off the week by meshing all of the various X Games athletes with media and industry people and serving up sushi combined with free booze. All the star athletes were out, in fact, I'm pretty sure I saw Tanner Hall explaining his Rastafarian beliefs to Danny Kass over some California rolls. And rumor has it Shaun White's red hair even made an appearance after being kept concealed under an oversized black "dreadlocks-beanie" for the majority of the week. Can't blame the guy for trying to go incognito though. He is more famous then Obama around these parts.
Check back tomorrow for some more one-sided opinions about what's really going down here at the 14th annual Winter X Games in Assspen. (Insert "Dumb and Dumber" cliched movie quote about women flocking and beer flowing like wine here)
Mantle Image Courtesy of Nate Abbott/Shazamm/ESPN Images 2009