Winter X athletes still test limits

Combined wire reports

Published: Saturday, Jan. 28 2012 11:32 p.m. MST

ASPEN, Colo. — Caleb Moore releases from the handlebars of a 450-pound snowmobile, 35 feet off the ground, with the possibility of being crushed if his high-flying stunt goes wrong.

"This is awesome!" Moore yelled at the Winter X Games on Buttermilk Mountain, where tricks keep getting bigger, despite the recent death of one of the event's household names.

The uncontrollable rate of progression hasn't slowed since Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke was killed this month in a practice crash, and with a chance to shine in prime time on ESPN, nothing about Winter X is dialed back.

Moore's younger brother, Colten, overcame a nasty qualifying mishap to win Thursday's snowmobile freestyle final with a pair of back flips, and when Canadian Mark McMorris won Friday's snowboard big air, he became the first to execute a triple cork 1440, a four-rotation jump off an 80-foot ramp. Triple flip 1260s were common Saturday in skiing big air, and Justin Hoyer is planning a double back flip Sunday in a snowmobile trick contest.

"I don't think about the danger," said Caleb Moore, who performed a never-before-seen tandem back flip with his brother last year at Winter X. "I just have fun and try to push it as hard as I can. When fellow athletes get hurt, it kind of brings the reality back to you a little bit. But I would much rather be taken out while doing something I love."

The halfpipe historically has been safe, with helmets now mandatory for competition and air bags often employed on the sides during training. The walls in Aspen measure 22 feet, an increase of 25 percent over the past five years, however, two-time Olympic medalists Shaun White and Kelly Clark continue extending the limits — Clark winning Friday with a frontside 1,080 and White banking Sunday on his trademark double McTwist 1260.

White conceded that he might not have advanced to a 1260 if he hadn't "kept hitting my face doing a 1080. I was like, 'I should just keep going.' … Once you start on that path, you never really know what it's going to be."

VONN WINS AGAIN: Lindsey Vonn stormed to a commanding World Cup downhill victory Saturday to follow up a super-combined win in St. Moritz the previous day and extend her comfortable lead in the overall standings.

The 27-year-old American outclassed the field and was almost 1.5 seconds up on second-placed Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany for her eighth World Cup win of the season and the 49th of her career.

Vonn clocked 1 minute, 43.65 seconds, the defending World Cup champion Hoefl-Riesch trailed by 1.42 seconds and Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein was 1.47 seconds back.

KEARNEY CONTINUES STREAK: American star Hannah Kearney won her 12th straight World Cup women's freestyle moguls event Saturday, and Canadian Mikael Kingsbury took his fifth straight men's victory at Calgary, Alberta.

NESBITT BREAKS 1,000 METERS RECORD: Canadian speedskater Christine Nesbitt broke the world record in the 1,000 meters Saturday in the world sprint championship at Calgary, Alberta. Nesbitt, the Olympic champion in the 1,000, finished in 1 minute, 12.68 seconds at the Olympic Oval to break the mark of 1:13.11 set by Canadian Cindy Klassen in 2006 on the same ice.

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