Words: T Bird
The US Open at Stratton Mountain, VT commenced today in true fashion with the men’s and women’s pipe finals. 10 men, 6 women, one pipe, and sub-par weather. Luckily for the competitors, speed was not an issue and the light was good enough to see the deck from about 15 feet above it.
Kelly Clark, Rebecca Sinclair, Gretchen Bleiler, Hannah Teter, Soko Yamaoka, and Kjersti Buass battled it out above the lip for the $20,000 first place prize. Sinclair couldn’t put down a run, Soko got bumped at the last minute, Kjersti failed to land, and obviously, the remainder of the field made it to the podium. The first of those three was third place finisher Gretchen Bleiler. Her first hit Cripplers were well overhead, and it’s my belief that her dwindling amplitude cost her first or second. Regardless, Gretchen is back. And she’s still on it. Now, I gotta give her credit. I’ve been hard on Hannah Teter through the years. Don’t ask why. I just have been. And I will now cease to be. Hannah came out swinging, boosting massive airs and grabbing her board when she spun. It sounds like an underhanded compliment, but in the past, her failure to grab may have been fuel for my fodder. Hannah rode insane today, and if it weren’t for Kelly’s dominance, Hannah would’ve clearly crushed it. Ahhhhh, Kelly. No one can beat her. Literally. The gap between Kelly and the other girls is an abyss at this point, and from her first run, when she put down a 90-something score, she had it in the bag. She landed the front ten. She went massive. And she is quite literally, head and shoulders above the rest of her peers. I look forward to Torah’s return, as I think she is the only one who can give Kelly a run for her money at this point.
And now for the men. Matt Ladley was out with the flu, but (Oh God, this is gonna be bad) that didn’t mean the rest of the guys couldn’t get sick on-hill. Zack Black, Ryo Aono, Iouri Podladtchikov, Louie Vito, Jan Scherrer, Kazuhiro Kokubo, Kohei Kudo, Markus Malin, and Eiju Hiromi took to it at about 1 o’clock. A few double corks and straight airs later, there were three, and two of them were Japanese. One was Swiss. Canadian Open pipe champ Kohei Kudo took third with a flurry of overhead airs, and as I claimed after his Cano win, Kazu finally has someone to pass the torch to. And that’s a fucking great thing. The man they call Ipod fell on his third and final run but put down two double corks in his second run on his way to a second place finish. And finally, reigning US Open pipe champion Kazuhiro Kokubo took his second title. His second run score in the mid-90s was more than enough to make him $20,000 richer and every single snowboarder on earth infinitely more hyped on this event. In a final marked by a heavy Japanese presence, two ended up in the top three, and given the recent world events and the devastation in The Land of the Rising Sun, I don’t think there was a single person watching who thought that it probably felt pretty damn good to win one.
Men’s 2011 US Open Pipe Results:
1. Kazuhiro Kokubo
2. Iouri Podladtchikov
3. Kohei Kudo
Women 2011 US Open Pipe Results:
1. Kelly Clark
2. Hannah Teter
3. Gretchen Bleiler