ASPEN, Colo. — In typical fashion, Shaun White made this one look rather easy as he cruised to his sixth straight snowboard superpipe crown at Winter X on Sunday night.
His top rival, Iouri Podladtchikov, dropped out because of an illness. Instead, White's biggest challenger was 14-year-old Ayumu Hirano, who became the youngest athlete ever to medal at Winter X when he took silver. Hirano, of Japan, just might be the future of snowboarding — once White relinquishes control, of course. Markus Malin of Finland was third.
These days, White's biggest competition may just be, well, from himself.
And even his own performances are getting more and more difficult to top. Last year, White earned a perfect 100 on his final run. He tried the same basic combination of tricks this time and scored only 98.
Tough judging, because his run looked flawless. Then again, his performances usually are.
On his winning run, White soared a staggering 24 feet into the air, drawing instant roars from the capacity crowd.
Then, on his final run, White did something that has become so routine — he took a victory stroll through the pipe. He did a couple of easy tricks and then shut it down near the bottom. Once he stopped, White fell to the snow and covered his goggles with his gloves as if he couldn't believe he really had just won.
Like he really had anything to worry about. The two-time Olympic gold medalist is simply on a different level than everyone else.
In the pipe, at least. White is still trying to hone his skills in slopestyle, which will be an Olympic sport next winter at the Sochi Games. He finished fifth the day before — a disappointing result for someone who always expects to be on the podium and usually on the top step.
Hardly a surprise, Tucker Hibbert won another SnoCross competition. He's as dominant on a snowmobile as White is on a snowboard.
Hibbert, of Pelican Rapids, Minn., became the first athlete to six-peat at Winter X in Aspen — beating White by hours — and raised his hands as he crossed the finish line.
Not bad considering last March Hibbert thought his career might be over when he lacerated his kidney in a crash at a competition.
"It definitely made me think twice about what I was doing," said the 28-year-old Hibbert, who had to lay low for months to recuperate. "But as soon as I was able to ride and train again, I knew there was no choice. It was a long time to be down. It's all right — I came back strong."
Three-time defending champion Kaya Turski had her reign in ski slopestyle come to an end as 17-year-old Tiril Sjastad Christiansen of Norway captured gold in a crash-marred event.
Turski, of Montreal, had to wait more than 30 minutes for her final run after the skier before her, Ashley Battersby, crashed on the course and slid into the fencing. Battersby was carted off on a sled and taken to a local hospital with a knee injury.
Before the event even began, Rose Battersby, who's not related to Ashley, suffered a lumbar spine fracture in a wipeout on a practice run. She was transferred to Denver for more evaluation, but was moving and had feeling in all extremities, according to X Games officials.
"It's really disappointing to hear one of your fellow competitors go down, and you don't really know what's going on," said Turski, who wound up with the silver medal. "We're keeping things as positive as possible and sending out the best vibes we can."
There have been quite a few spills at Winter X — some minor and some horrific, like when snowmobile rider Caleb Moore clipped the top of a jump during freestyle competition on Thursday. He went over the handlebars and the heavy sled rolled over the top of him. Although he walked off the course, he went to the hospital with a concussion.
While there, he developed bleeding around his heart and was flown to Grand Junction for surgery Friday.
On Sunday, Moore suffered a "secondary complication involving his brain." The Moore family released a statement, but provided no further details, only that the rider "continues to be monitored in ICU."
Another scary moment happened Sunday night when a young fan was hurt after a runaway snowmobile veered into the crowd.
The teenager was evaluated on site for a right knee injury and released to his father. It's not clear whether he was hurt jumping out of the way or was struck by the sled.
Snowmobiler Jackson Strong tumbled off the snowmobile during the best trick competition. The throttle stuck on the 450-pound machine and it swerved straight toward the crowd — fans scurrying out of the way. The snowmobile came to a rest when it got tangled up in the retaining fence.
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