X Games Olso 2016 Men's Superpipe Recap | Redemption
Words: Larry Nunez
X Games redemption is most often reserved for a rider or two who failed to perform their best on any given night. A last trick fall here, a hand drag there… sometimes even a minor mistake can cost a favored contender a chance at a medal, leaving him with an entire year to wait for another shot. But in one of the worst decisions in competitive snowboarding history, the 2016 X Games Superpipe in Aspen, Colorado was cancelled after one run due to weather (it was snowing too much to snowboard), and medals were awarded to the first run scores. Never before has an entire field of the world's best halfpipe riders left feeling like they all deserved redemption.
Fortunately, this time they don't have to wait 365 days for another chance. With the addition of X Games Oslo, the guys gathered halfway around the world for a proper showdown in Norway before most of them will turn right around and head to the US Open next weekend in Vail, CO.
The usual suspects were all here ready to face off: 2-time defending X Games gold medalist Danny Davis, Japanese wonder Ayumu Hirano, and 2014 Olympic champion Iouri "I-Pod" Podladtchikov. And there would be no weather issues this night– the painstakingly sculpted Frank Wells Superpipe was sitting under bright lights and cool, clear skies.
"For 8 days of a 13-day build it rained, then it froze up on us," explained Wells. "It's a solid pipe as I've seen in probably fifteen years. We've got a great shape in it and all the riders are happy with the vert. It's just firm… kinda gnarly." Akin to a concrete bowl, the frozen pipe provided the consistency and speed to allow the riders to hold nothing back. Hirano proved this on his first run, putting down a monster that started off with I-Pod's signature "Yolo" flip, or the Cab 1440 Double Cork and scoring a 92.33. Or as Danny Davis put it during one of his his post run interviews, "Ayumu came out and just took a dump on everyone."
After qualifying first on Thursday, Podladtchikov had the luxury of dropping last but wasn't quite ready to match Hirano straight out the gate. Nonetheless, he threw down a solid run with a 1260 into back to back 1080s and scored an 88.00 to move into second place.
From that point on, the contest was basically just everyone else trying to play catch up. Hirano improved on his run of Cab 1440, Front Five Japan, Backside 9, Front Double Cork Truck Driver, ending with a stomped Switch Double Chuck that upped his score to a 94.66 and had the crowd screaming in disbelief. I-Pod tried to match Hirano's heat, tossing in his own Cab 1440 after his back-to-back doubles, but couldn't quite put it down clean. Given the way Hirano was riding, it's impossible to say whether that would have even matched a 94.66, but it certainly made for some dramatic action.
"Amazing riding tonight, really impressive," I-Pod said of Hirano's performance. "I've only done that trick a handful of times, and he landed it three times in a row like it was nothing. It's great though because it puts everyone at the highest level of snowboarding. It's always interesting to watch a competition when something new is going to happen or the riding level is something else. That's kind of what we're all looking for."
One surprise of the night was Chase Josey beating out X Games veterans like Danny Davis and Louie Vito, following up a strong showing in Aspen with another Bronze medal in Oslo.
"In Aspen we got snowed out, so coming here I had a little bit of a fire under me," exclaimed Josey. "The halfpipe, the weather and Oslo have been totally amazing. I've been working really hard for the run that I did and its finally coming to me and I'm so happy."
A perfect evening for a halfpipe contest was the ultimate contradiction to what happened in Aspen, and X Games fans finally got the show that they've been waiting for all season.
The future of X Games here in Oslo is still uncertain at this point, but one can only hope every Superpipe contest can be as good as this one. "To be honest for qualifyers there weren't many fans coming to watch, so I was actually concerned that maybe this contest wouldn't be that great," confessed Hirano. "But then for finals all these great fans showed up and as a rider when you hear the fans screaming, it just makes you hyped and gives you more power."