Kim wins in another snowstorm
I-Pod had this thing in the bag.
On Friday morning, just in time for the title-bout snow flurries — it’s been a theme since Dew Tour — Swiss teammates Iouri “I-Pod” Podladtchikov and Patrick Burgener were battling for the top spot on the men’s snowboard finals podium. Also in the mix were Australian Scotty James and American Chase Josey, while heavy hitters like American Greg Bretz and another Swiss rider, Christian Haller, were struggling to land a clean run. Curiously missing from the final was Shaun White, the three-time Olympic gold medalist dethroned in Sochi by I-Pod. He failed to make the cut at Thursday’s qualifier with a high score of 65.50. Danny Davis qualified, but never took a start.
By 11:45 a.m., things were coming down to the wire. After two runs of the three-run final, I-Pod was in the lead with 96.00, followed by Josey in second place with 92.25 and Burgener in third with 88.50. Louie Vito — the veteran U.S. Grand Prix overall pipe champ who started the morning in first after qualifiers — sat on the outside looking in at fourth place with 87.75.
Then, everyone decided to throw down — snow and flat light be damned. James had a stylish run with doubles in both directions to score 88.75, enough to bump Burgener into fourth. That’s when he made the move and put together the best run of the finals with tons of amplitude in a sticky pipe and crisp, clean landings. Like the small but boisterous crowd, the judges reacted with awe for the new high score of the day: 96.25, enough to overcome I-Pod by 0.25 and put Burgener in first.
Josey responded with a bigger, better repeat of his first run and scored a 93.75. It was enough to beat the American’s personal third-place score, but not enough to jump ahead of the Swiss teammates. With two competitors left, I-Pod dropped in to try and reclaim the top spot. It’s no wonder he’s the first person to beat Shaun White at the Olympics — the two are scarily similar. They both get massive air and spin with pinpoint precision, so that the same tricks everyone else is doing just don’t seem as impressive.
But Burgener couldn’t be beat. I-Pod scored 95.75, just 0.25 points lower than his second run, leaving Vito as the final guy between Burgener and a U.S. Grand Prix title. The veteran went all-in for his final run — and slid out on a hit in the middle of the pipe to finished the day in fifth overall.
Women’s snowboard final
Chloe Kim is an animal.
No offense to the 16-year-old snowboard phenom — check out her Instagram (@chloekimsnow) to see how un-animalistic she is — but when the going gets tough, the Korean-born member of the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team bares her teeth to let no one get between her and a podium. It’s even better if that means taking gold in the process.
At the women’s halfpipe final on Friday morning, just before the guy’s duked it out, Kim faced many of the same pros she’ll see over and over again on her way to PyeongChang: first-place qualifier Verena Rohrer of Switzerland, fellow Americans Elena Hight and Hannah Teter, the Chinese duo of Xuetong Cai and Jiayu Liu. It’s nearly a who’s-who of the women’s halfpipe scene right now, minus superstars like Kelly Clark, and every last one of them is dangerous.
After three runs, Kim proved she can take them all — and then some. Everyone struggled with billowing snow for the first run, and only Cai came close to breaking the 90.00 mark.
Things changed in the second run — call the first one a warm-up — when Liu earned a 91.00 with a nearly flawless run. Like the best of the men, she managed to get up and over the pipe deck even as snow whipped through Copper.
On the next drop, Kim outdid Liu by a few inches of air and a few degrees of difficulty to score 95.50. It was the highest of the day for the women and kept her on top of the podium. Only Rohrer had a clean sequence in the third run, but her 83.75 wasn’t enough to pass by Liu in second place with 91.00 and Cai in third with 89.25.
When the women finished and it was still snowing in sheets, Kim had won her first U.S. Grand Prix snowboard title. What an animal.
The 2017 U.S. Grand Prix wraps up on Saturday, Dec. 17 with the freeski superpipe finals for women and men at 9 a.m., followed by the snowboard big air finals for women and men at 12:15 p.m. and 1:45 p.m.
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