Photos by Nick Hamilton
Words by Annie Fast
Illustrations by John Antoski
"You cannot compare this to any other contest, not the X Games, not anything."--Shaun's words as he explained his stoke at winning his second Olympic gold medal. To everyone there it looked like he easily took the victory--he set himself up to win from the beginning--not from the beginning of the night, but from the beginning of the season. After all, his vision and progression in his private Silverton pipe is the only reason that these are the double cork Olympics. Even though he was favored to win he says he felt more pressure this time around because, unlike in the 2006 Olympics where he was undefeated, he came into this Olympics with a few defeats--true, but those riders, Danny Davis and Kevin Pearce, were noticeably absent. Shaun put his year of hard work to work on his first run in the qualifiers getting the highest overall score, which as he knows, put him as the final competitor to go in the finals. Then he crushed his first finals run with back-to-back double corks setting himself up for a victory lap. But he didn't do a victory lap--he did the most difficult run he could do--but why? He said, "I wanted a victory lap that would be remembered." As he said, he had the trick in his back pocket in case he needed it, but he pulled out that trick, the Double McTwist 12, even though he didn't need to--he had to show the world what he was capable of, and he made history in the process as the first two time Olympic halfpipe gold medalist.
With his silver medal placing, Peetu Piiroinen got the best medal placing ever for an Olympic Finnish snowboarder. It was obvious going into the finals that Peetu was the one rider who might have a chance to beat Shaun tonight. Peetu stomped both of his qualifying runs, placing first in his heat, a mere seventh of a point behind Shaun. He stepped up on his final run going bigger, landing his tricks cleaner, and bumping Lago out of second--but it wasn't enough to unseat Shaun. It sure made for an exciting final, though.
Going into the Olympics, Scotty Lago had a lot on his plate--the tribulations of the Frends crew to contend with, the pride of the state of New Hampshire on the line, and a past reputation for choking to battle with--even though he had performed under pressure on the Grand Prix circuit, it was still a worry. But he apparently had already slayed that choking dragon, and even though he had to qualify through the semis, he put down his winning run on his first try in finals--a run that he tells us, he had never done before. Scotty came into this Olympics as a self-proclaimed underdog, but came out as an undisputed champion.Party on New Hampshire!
All four US halfpipe team men made it into the finals, but there were some defeats--Louie Vito ended up in fifth place, not where he wanted to be, but on the upside, he does have the distinction of being the first rider to ever land back-to-back double corks in the Olympics. Iouri Podlatchikov, Ryo Aono, Kazu, Markus Keller--they all came so close. Another defeat was for the fans who couldn’t be here tonight--unlike the 2002 Olympics where 16,500 fans watched and cheered at Park City, a comparably small, exclusive crowd of 4,400 spectators stood witness in the stands tonight.
The biggest miracle of the night was something that you might have taken for granted--the pipe itself. Arena Snowparks led by Steve Petrie and his staff had easily the hardest job at these Olympic games, and it was nothing but experience, perseverance, (a lot of money and trucked and flown in snow), and hard work that made an Olympic quality pipe a reality tonight.