X Games Day 3: Richards and Brun Kjeldaas Gold in Pipe

Todd Richards, who has had some trouble in the finals lately, hooked up the run he’s nailed in practice and layed it down for the judges in the finals, grabbing his first X Games Gold Medal. Stine Brun Kjeldaas came from behind in the final run to overtake Barrett Christy and grab the women’s gold.

Today marked the first event of this year’s X Games that was conducive to watching. The previous days were both incredibly unfriendly to the spectators, but today, there was finally a viewing area. Of course, it is far easier to watch halfpipe than anything else, but I was particularly fond of today because one side of the halfpipe was reserved strictly for media. The thousands of people crammed on the other deck trying to watch probably weren’t as excited about this as me, but I don’t care about them.

Another nice thing about today was that the sun was shining. Any day at a ski area seems better with a blue ski overhead. Again, this made me happy, but wasn’t the best for others. In true halfpipe tradition, the Superpipe that was specially built for the event only received sun on one wall. This made for the over vert slush/under vert ice syndrome. That, and the fact that the superpipe was far too small to actually be super, left many of the athletes a bit disappointed. Many of the riders had just returned from Mammoth, where the pipe was top notch, and far bigger than Mt. Snow’s, so there were lots of negative comparisons for the riders to make in regard to the pipe, which many did.

Instead of running in a best of three format like the previous days, the pipe had qualifiers. The best of two runs determined the ten men and women who would make it to the three run final. This seemed unnecessary to say the least, and was incredibly time consuming, but I figure the event organizers wanted to keep people there longer so they could buy more merchandise, or something. The nice thing about everyone taking so many runs though, was that there was plenty of time to make trips to the bathroom or get food, and not miss anything.

It’s a good thing the girls went first. Upon watching their portion of the contest, I was very impressed. No longer is the contest just about Nicola Thost putting on a show, and everyone else barely clearing the lip. All of the girls went off, going way bigger and doing much more technical tricks. The reason I’m glad they went first however, is that in comparison to the men, they didn’t look so good.

Barrett Christy set the bar for the girls with a score of 83.00 with her first run. Although she wasn’t going as big as some of the other girls, her runs were extremely technical, including about fifty percent switch tricks. She seemed untouchable until Stine Brun Kjeldaas had a perfect run her final turn, going huge and doing a clean 720 at the end of her run. This upstaged Barrett by two points, and Stine walked away with the gold.

In third place was the only girl to do a Mctwist all day, Natasza Zurek. The only read conspiracy of the day involved Kim Stacy, who was undoubtedly gypped. Although her airs were the biggest of any girl’s, she only got fourth place. However, she was the real winner as the crowd favorite.

The practice for the men was the most intense part of the day. Immediately following the women’s contest, the pipe turned into a non-stop photo session. From everyone’s practice runs, Keir Dillon emerged the favorite. For his first hit, he was doing Mctwists a good ten feet overhead. Unfortunately, when the runs were for real, he crashed, and ended up way out of the field. The riders that did make it in were those who had clean, technical runs, and went ridiculously huge.

The East Coast crowd had a lot of local pride, and were a bit distraught that neither Abe Teeter or Adam Petraska made it into the finals, so they directed all their enthusiasm towards Ross Powers.

Although there were ten men taking runs, the contest was only really between four of them, Powers, Richards, Tommy Czeschin and Trevor Andrew. Trevor’s second two runs were some of the best, as it turns out, he can do other tricks besides Mctwists. Tommy Czeschin didn’t seem to mind that the pipe wasn’t as good as Mammoth’s, and was having excellent runs all day. For awhile he had the high score, but was soon knocked out by Powers.

Things looked good for Ross, because Richards had some trouble on his first run, and the weather was starting to decline. However, Todd pulled it all together for his second run, cleanly executing his triple-flip combo. He did a wet-cat 900, into a 720 flip finishing out with cab 720.

Ross saw what he had to beat, and did an incredible four-trick combo on his next run. He did an inverted 900, right into a 720, a cab 900, and followed it all up with a McTwist. If the event was judged on crowd reaction, Powers would have walked away victorious, but because his tricks were not as smooth, and some weren’t grabbed, it wasn’t enough to overtake Richards.

The big air practice was also supposed to be held on this day, but due to high winds, it was cancelled. Tomorrow, the riders will get to drop into the jump cold turkey for their runs, because there is no time scheduled for practice. It should be quite entertaining.

Women1. Stine Brun Kjeldaas
2. Barrett Christy
3. Natasza Zurek
4. Kim Stacey
5. Cara-Beth Burnside
6. Aurelie Sayers
7. Tricia Byrnes
8. Tara Dakides
9. Doriane Vidal
10. Minna Hesso

1. Todd Richards
2. Ross Powers
3. Tommy Czechin
4. Trevor Andrew
5. Gian Simmen
6. Marius Sommer
7. Lael Gregory
8. Luke Wynen
9. Guillaume Chastignol
10. Rob Kingwill