Something strange happens when any one rider gets really damn good--a hint of predictability finds its way into snowboarding. Now, this is great for them, but what about the people who have to watch ’em ride? People who want to see some upset, something crazy happen, some unknown dark horse come out of the woodwork and take everything by storm? Well, too bad, because Shaun White is frickin’ good, he knows how to compete, and he’s not going away anytime soon.
However, before we get into that, I better mention that the women’s event did have an upset winner. Janna Meyen mighta won last year’s X-Slopestyle, but she’s fresh off a blown knee from spring of 2004 and should really be takin’ it easy. But she didn’t. Nope, Meyen grabbed this course by the X-jugular, doing frontside 180s into half Cabs at the top, then on to backside 540s and 720s--all spun with signature Meyen style (big and smooth). It was completely X-tastic.
All in all, a 720-degree rotation separated the women’s X-podium from the rest of the X-pack. In addition to Janna, the two other women to pull this one off would be as follows: Natasza Zurek, who spun her way down the top of the course with front and back 360s and backside 540s, before winding up and chucking a big backside 720 revert for third place. And the silver went to European X-rookie Silvia Mittermueller, who is making a major mark on this season’s slopestyle scene with her giant spin domination. On this course, it included stomped threes, fives, and large-sized, manhandled backside 720s. Tara Dakides was markedly absent from the finals, though, after she drifted sideways on a jump in the qualifiers and landed on a cameraman--but I’d say Silvia Mittermueller gave Janna a good run for her money. Big things to come from Silvia in the future, for sure.
Anyhow, the X-course saw its fair share of female X-carnage, for sure. During prelims practice, Alexis Waite fractured her eye socket by smashing her face on the lip of a jump. Although she looked like she just had a black eye, Waite actually has to get a steel plate surgically inserted into her cheekbone ... which sounds delightful. Also, Jamie McLeod hit her head real hard a few runs before the X-finals, incurring a mild concussion and strange-looking, lopsidedly swollen head. Don’t worry, though, they’re both gonna be just fine.
Men, let’s see, it was a stacked field--Danny Kass, Travis Rice, MFM, and of course, White. Todd Richards qualified for the finals in the middle of the pack and was shredding back-to-back 900s on the bottom kickers, despite the announcer (I think it was Dave Duncan) claiming that the “older generation can’t hold a torch to what the up-and-comers are throwing down these days. The real action, however, was what shook out between the top-three placers. Apparently a double-back flip, a backside rodeo seven, and a Cab five gets you third place in the X-Games Slopestyle, because that’s what our man Travis Rice did, and that’s what he got. He was beat out of the silver spot by his Mervin teammate Danny Kass, who does switch rodeos with ease, as well as backlipping flat down rails and smoothing out Cab seven to backside 900 combos.
Now, the fact that everyone already suspects that Shaun White’s gonna win going into an event doesn’t make watching him or any of the other X-dudes ride any less impressive. Which is why EVERYONE was paying attention when White came down and did this: frontside tailslide to 270 out on into a frontside 270 to backlip on the upper rails, then frontside five, Cab five, backside seven, frontside five, and cab 900 through the kicker section. Yup, it was one long course, and the little Mr. White had no problems with it. But I got pretty tired just watching him ...
1. Janna Meyen
2. Silvia Mittermueller
3. Natasza Zurek
4. Erin Comstock
5. Emily Thomas
1. Shaun White
2. Danny Kass
3. Travis Rice
4. Bjorn Leines
5. Toodd Richards