X Games 14: Day 1 Roundup | SummitDaily.com

X Games 14: Day 1 Roundup

Gretchen Bleiler, of Aspen, Colo., smiles as she completes her first of two runs during the snowboard superpipe women's elimination round during the Winter X Games at Buttermilk Mountain outside Aspen, Colo., on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Kaya Turski admitted that she was feeling the pressure before Thursday’s women’s ski slopestyle.

It did not last.

The 21-year-old from Montreal laid down a near-flawless first run on a sun-drenched afternoon at Buttermilk, posting a score of 92.33. She bested that mark on each of the next two runs, finishing with a 96.66 – nearly 12 points better than he nearest competitor – to claim the first gold medal awarded at Winter X Games 14.

Breckenridge’s Keri Herman finished second with an 85, and Salt Lake City’s Grete Eliassen wound up third with an 84.33. Carbondale’s Megan Olenick (79.33) took fifth.

Australia’s Anna Segal, who tore her MCL during training in Vail a few weeks back, did not return to defend her 2009 crown.

“Last year didn’t go well. It was a medal, but it was somewhat disappointing,” said Turski, who was third in the inaugural slopestyle. “I can’t even describe it. This has been a dream of mine since I was a kid.”

With victory already secured, Turski completed a final run that included a 270 onto one of the long rails in the course’s upper section – or “Jib Garden” – a 540 and a switch 900. She finished with a switch 720 off the 68-foot “Money Booter”, raising both hands in celebration as she skidded to a stop in the finish area.

Turski’s score was 11.66 points better than that of Segal, who was the lone competitor to score in the 80s last year on an afternoon marred by inclement weather and one major injury.

Canadian Sarah Burke attempted to land a 900, came up short and landed hard, breaking the L3 vertebrae in her back. Crowds watched anxiously for nearly 30 minutes as medical personnel attended to the 27-year-old, then carted her off in a sled.

“It was snowing and windy, and you couldn’t see 2 feet ahead,” Herman remembered. “The weather today was pretty much perfect.”

“It was nice to see the sun shining,” Turski added. “It gives you a good vibe, and you can go for it.”

Burke, a five-time Winter X medalist who will go for the first skiing four-peat in today’s superpipe competition (4:30 p.m.), was hardly tentative Thursday. After losing speed and having to bail out before the Money Booter on her opening run, Burke attempted a 1080 off the final jump on the second, then the competition’s only 1260 on the third. On the latter, she landed awkwardly and her left ski popped off and went flying.

This time, Burke walked away smiling. She wound up sixth with a 64.66.

Turski lost a ski during her first run in 2009. This time around, she stayed on her feet and had the whole field trying to keep pace from the start.

“I expect Kaya to put down a bomb run,” Herman said.

“It doesn’t put pressure on you, it pumps you up,” Eliassen added. “You even try harder.”

The extra effort was not enough to unseat Turski on this day, however.

“It’s unreal having gold hanging off my neck right now,” Turski said.

For more coverage of Winter X Games 14, visit http://www.aspentimes.com/xgames.

ASPEN – Gretchen Bleiler waited 12 months to return to the Winter X Games and pull off the trick that did her in last year.

A wait well worth it.

The three-time X Games champion completed a frontside 900 jump on her second run in snowboard superpipe qualifying Thursday night to finish second, only 0.34 points behind Kelly Clark.

“There’s some redemption there,” said Bleiler, the 2006 Olympic silver medalist. “It feels really, really good to do the jump, grab the board and get all the way around.”

Clark and Bleiler will lead a six-woman field into the finals on Saturday. Counting Hannah Teter and Elena Hight, the top four finishers in qualifying are the same four on the U.S. Olympic team.

A notable absence from the field is Australia’s Torah Bright. One of the favorites in Vancouver, Bright suffered a concussion Thursday morning while practicing a switchback 720, not the double-cork jump she’s been trying to perfect for the Games.

Bleiler took a mean tumble last year at the X games, catching the lip of the pipe and slamming her back down hard on her second run. The Aspen resident stayed on the ground for some time before getting back up and boarding down.

She is considered a top challenger to Clark, who has been on a roll of late, winning four of five U.S. Grand Prix events in the lead-up to the Olympics.

With a fairly conservative run, Shaun White easily advanced out of the elimination round at the Winter X Games men’s superpipe contest Thursday. White scored a 97.66 to win the qualifier.

Iouri Podladtchikov was second at 88.33, and soon-to-be Olympian Greg Bretz was third.

Also advancing on were Kazuhiro Kokubo of Japan, Golden’s J.J. Thomas, Luke Mitrani, Louie Vito and Breckenridge local Steve Fisher.

Summit’s Zack Black did not advance.

The Associated Press and Summit Daily News contributed to this story.

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