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The Breakdown: Progression is the name of the game

BRYCE EVANS
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
Sports editor Bryce Evans
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If you talk to any of the top American snowboarders, they’ll all tell you the same thing: It’s harder to make the U.S. Olympic team than to win a medal.

Overall, only four women and four men will get a ticket to Vancouver, and seeing as the majority of the world’s best riders are American, it’s going to be a battle.

“The riding has just stepped up so much,” Louie Vito said this week at the Grand Prix at Copper. “It’s an Olympic year, and it always seems to happen that way.”

Well, if you had a chance to get out to Copper at all this week, it was pretty easy to see the way that riders have, literally, started going bigger and bigger.

All the talk this past week was about the new double cork trick that some riders – including Vito and Shaun White – have added to their arsenal. The trick, which consists of a double flip in addition to rotational spins, has caught everyone’s attention.

Breck’s Steve Fisher said prior to the week that he was concerned that the new trick would turn snowboarding into a “huckfest,” with riders looking to land one giant hit rather than an entire run. He said it would all come down to how it was scored.

After the first stateside competition that included the double cork, it appears that Fisher doesn’t have too much to worry about.

Sure, both White – who won the Grand Prix – and Vito both got big scores for their runs that included back-to-back double cork 1080s, but very few other riders used the double cork efficiently, or even used it at all. For instance, Summit High grad Zack Black put together a run filled more with technical stuff than high-flying showmanship and wound up finishing third overall.

Anyway, the reason I bring all this up is because I feel that it displays what competitive snowboarding is all about: Trying to one-up the other guy.

In most other sports, you can simply out-muscle an opponent for a win.

In snowboarding, it all eventually comes down to the judges.

Now, in the last couple years that I’ve covered top-level snowboarding, I can tell you that 90 percent of all the riders you’ll watch don’t appear to do anything differently than the next guy. They all have similar tricks, go similar heights out of the pipe and move at similar speeds. Thank God for bib numbers, or I’d never be able to tell them apart.

But that other 10 percent – like White, Vito, Fisher, Danny Davis or Scotty Lago – push the limits. They all come up with new things that no one else is doing.

Like the double cork.

White was the first to do it in competition this summer in New Zealand. (He won both events.) And now some other riders are trying to pull their own version of the trick. Vito said Saturday that his and White’s double corks are “way different.”

“That’s the cool thing about it,” he said. “That we can do the same trick but it doesn’t look the same.”

That’s why the best riders in the world are the best in the world. It’s also the reason that watching the top men or women is so much fun.

Even if the Grand Prix series winds up having a better top-to-bottom field than the Olympics, it doesn’t mean what happens in Vancouver won’t be exciting to watch.

After all, we’ll still see the best of the Americans doing what they do best.


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