Foreign threats to American halfpipe dominance emerge at X Games: Meet “iPod” and “Kazu”

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