VAIL — It only took the best run of Taylor Gold’s young life to edge out Olympic bronze medalist Taku Hiraoka at the Burton U.S. Open.
Under sunny skies Saturday, the 20-year-old Gold performed a “double cork” (twice inverted) trick with a 1260-degree rotation at the top of the halfpipe, rather than at the bottom as he had been doing at other events this season, to put together a run he described as his best ever. And in a season that saw immense competition for the U.S. halfpipe snowboarding Olympic team, which Gold qualified for with authority, a win at the Open is a great way to finish it off, Gold said.
“Hopefully going into contests next year, that will be where I’m headed,” said Gold, a Steamboat Springs resident. “The 12 is harder at the top, because I have to do another double right after it, where as at the bottom I can just finish and ride out of the pipe.”
Gold followed his 12 with a Double Michalchuk, a multi-cartwheel-style trick he describes as “horrifying.” 2010 Olympian Louie Vito, who failed to put a clean run together Saturday and finished eighth, was the only other competitor in the field performing the Double Michalchuk.
VICTORY LAPS ABOUND
Less than one full point in the contest — which was judged on a 100-point scale — separated Gold from second-place Hiraoka, of Japan. Hiraoka, through the aid of a translator, said he was disappointed with the scoring in his second run, which contained back-to-back 1080s followed by a 1260.
Rounding out the podium in third was David Habluetzel of Switzerland, who said Vail’s pipe — built by Snow Park Technologies — was the best he’s ever ridden.
“I’ve never had such a good pipe, it was so fun to ride,” he said.
While both the halfpipe and slopestyle finals at the Burton U.S. Open gave riders three runs to put down their best trick, none of the winners from the 32nd-annual competition needed the third run, as they all had sealed up their victories at that point.
“To put it down and have a victory lap is way beyond what I ever would have expected, or even hoped for, really,’ Gold said.
Eagle resident Jake Pates, 15, finished in seventh after qualifying fifth on Thursday. Pates’ huge amplitude on his opening-hit 540, along with an impressive double cork 1080 midway down his run, separated him from those who didn’t make finals.
Pates finished fourth at the European version of the U.S. Open in January, with 2014 Olympic gold medalist Iouri Podladchikov taking the win at that event. The European open takes place in Switzerland, the country for which Podladchikov competes along with teammate Christian Haller, who finished second at that event.
In the U.S. Open on Saturday, Pates was able to reverse the score and finish above Haller, who took 9th. Podladchikov did not compete.
The Burton U.S. Open represents the last stop on the World Snowboard Tour; Pates finished the season in 11th overall in the halfpipe dicipline. Hiraoka’s second-place finish gave him the World Snowboard Tour halfpipe victory for 2013-14.