Stunning return to form earns Danny Davis X Games gold and a surprise trip to Sochi

The resurgence of snowboarder Danny Davis as in the halfpipe has been the story of the qualifying season. So can he stun in Sochi?

The resurgence of snowboarder Danny Davis in the halfpipe has been the story of the qualifying season. So can he stun in Sochi? Photo by Gabriel Christus/ESPN Images

Weeks before the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 were to commence snowboarder Danny Davis looked ready to set the world ablaze. After handily beating Shaun White in the halfpipe at an Olympic qualifier he followed up the following week with a Dew Tour win. Davis was, by all accounts, on top of his game, and was widely considered White’s biggest threat heading into the Vancouver Games. His future never looked brighter.

But he never made it to Vancouver.

Days before his Olympic dream was about to begin, Davis was injured in an ATV accident. The worst part was he’d been celebrating his latest win and drinking before the incident. He suffered a fractured vertebra and broken pelvis, and it would be eight months before he could even attempt riding again. His Olympic dream was over.

Danny Davis thrilled the crowd (and the judges) in Mammoth Mountain with this incredible 15-foot switch method in the halfpipe finals. His incredible performances this season have earned him an unexpected trip to Sochi. Photo courtesy TWSnowboarding/ChrisWellhsusen

Danny Davis thrilled the crowd (and the judges) in Mammoth Mountain with this incredible 15-foot switch method in the halfpipe finals. His awe-inspiring performances this season have earned him an unexpected trip to Sochi. Photo courtesy of TransWorld Snowboarding/Chris Wellhsusen

The four years since has been a long and painful road. While his charisma has helped him remain a popular personality within the snowboarding community, he’s been a non-factor in competition—at least until a few weeks ago, when he entered the Olympic qualifying series just hoping to turn a few heads. Amidst the new breed of young riders who have emerged in the halfpipe arena, like Greg Bretz and Taylor Gold, Davis is a friendly old lion just trying to pass on some wisdom.

And while he entered this season prepared to pass the Olympic torch to his young American counterparts, the old lion was hoping to spark some discussion along the way with some innovative riding. And turn heads he did. Davis stunned everyone, including himself, by making the podium in back-to-back qualifiers last week. While he was just shy on points to lock in an Olympic team slot, his amazing resurgence earned him the U.S. coaches’ discretionary pick. He’s heading to Sochi after all.

On Sunday night in Aspen, Davis roared again, winning his first-ever gold medal in the halfpipe at the X Games. It was the first time in six X Games appearances that he had even made it into a final.

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Scotty Lago, who earned a bronze medal in Vancouver, told Snowboarder magazine that Davis is peaking at just the right time, and doing it on his terms.

Davis has never been one to compromise his riding style just to satisfy the judging criteria. His fans love that he lives and dies by his "take it or leave it" approach. This season, he’s been bringing a more fluid riding style to the pipe, and his approach stands apart from the rest because of its nuances. Rather than get caught up in the massive above-the-deck spin game that others are playing, he’s unleashing a flurry of more stylish switch moves: opening with a switch method, then usually a frontside double cork 1080, to an alley-oop switch backside rodeo 540, to switch backside 720.

Danny Davis hasn't been winning much at all in the last four years, but he's back in the groove, and peaking at just the right time.

Davis hasn’t been winning much at all in the past four years, but he’s back in the groove and peaking at just the right time. Photo courtesy

Yes, that's a mouthful. But "switch" is the ingredient that matters. In layman's terms it means he's launching while going backwards, which is tougher. And his fluid style seems to be getting the appreciation it deserves.

[Related: Watch the halfpipe run that earned Danny Davis his win and a trip to Sochi.]

But even with his success of late, Davis is staying realistic about his Olympic chances. After his win at the Olympic qualifier in Mammoth, he said, "I'm not snowboarding to go to the Olympics. I've had a rough four years of getting hurt, and this year was just about getting better at snowboarding again. I'm getting there."

Immediately after his win in Aspen, Davis acknowledged Shaun White, who wasn’t there. “It’s bittersweet, because he’s the one to beat. But forget it. I’ll take it,” he told ESPN’s Alyssa Roenigk. And why not? He topped the international field, many of whom will be in Sochi. And he’s happy that his style seems to be getting the attention it deserves. "I'm going to ride this switch-method train as long as it'll last,” he said after grabbing his X Games gold.

If the Olympic judges give proper consideration to style and creativity, don’t be surprised if Davis shocks the world in Sochi. Until then, he’ll be taking it easy. Jack Mitrani, a good friend and fellow competitor of Davis, told the Denver Post, "We're celebrating by locking Danny into his hotel room.”

One reason why Danny Davis is one of the most respected halfpipe snowboarders in the world is his uncompromising attitude toward style. Every move has to look good, or it's not worth doing.

One reason why Danny Davis is one of the most respected halfpipe snowboarders in the world is his uncompromising attitude toward style. Every move has to look good or it’s not worth doing.

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