Check out the most hard hitting action since Snooki got punched here in this exclusive Snowboardermag.com photo gallery from the first of the two Mammoth Olympic Halfpipe Qualifier finals.
Words: Pat Bridges
Danny Davis could provide no better tribute to his fallen Frend Kevin Pearce than the one he conjured under the sunny Sierra skies at the first of the two consecutive 2010 Grand Prix Olympic Qualifiers at Mammoth Mountain, CA. When the scores were tabulated and podium announced what went down in Main Park on Wednesday January 6th, 2010 will forever be entrenched in the annals of halfpipe history.
Despite the hyperbole surrounding the consequential double cork and whether or not it is too "extreme" a majority of the riders in Wednesday’s finals included the game-changing trick in their halfpipe routines and all of them emerged at the end of the day unscathed and stoked. Unfortunately unqualified pundits like ABC News consultant Christine Brennan weren't onsite to witness this firsthand. Of course such a logical move, albeit after the fact, wouldn't further their misguided agenda to ban the move.
For those of you who don't know what I am talking about, let me give you a quick explanation. Washington Redskins reporter and USA Today sports blogger Christine Brennan appeared alongside this author on a recent network TV broadcast discussing the controversial phenomena that is the double cork and the unfortunate events of last week which left Kevin Pearce hospitalized with a serious injury. While it is a fact that Kevin Pearce was attempting a double cork when he fell and received head trauma, the ensuing commentary on the subject by the supposed snowboarding "expert" Christine Brennan is tabloid-esque in its use of haphazard assertions. While I agree with Christine Brennan's past critiques of the IOC, I can't find evidence that qualifies her to speak on matters of snowboarding and the double cork. Who knows if she even snowboards! It should be stated for the record that double corks in their many forms have been a part of halfpipe snowboarding for over a decade and have been performed hundreds if not thousands of times by dozens of riders. While they all are risky maneuvers and my statement that a serious injury occurring because of a miscalculation during an attempt was inevitable, I hardly feel the risk is such that action need to be taken to curtail this progression. On Wednesday alone three dozen double corks were performed with no ill consequences.
“The best halfpipe contest in history!”
Now back to the story at hand, which deals with what has been described by many as the best halfpipe contest in history. The action was certainly intense right from the start. Frenchman Mathieu Crepel was the first to drop in during the finals and set down a frontside double cork on his debut hit, insuring that anyone who followed would have to be on their game if they wanted to have a chance at a solid result. Other finalists executing the 2x cork, though finishing farther back in the field, were Greg Bretz, Brennan Swanson, Matt Ladley and Jeff Batchelor. Finishing in fifth was everyone's favorite journeyman Elijah Teter. Elijah once again excelled with his uncommon style and uncanny knack for switch technicality. The pinnacle of his performance was his final hit of the day, which was a switch alley-oop Teter Toss about twelve feet above the lip, leaving the announcers scrambling for words to explain the stunt. Fourth place was achieved by none other than the Tiny Dancer out of Ohio, Louie Vito. Vito's second run which began with his version of the frontside double cork was mired by an unfortunate ass check on his second hit. Despite this potentially speed scrubbing fall, Louie still mustered the momentum to pull a 1260 on the third hit! His best score of the day matched that of third place finisher Scotty Lago, yet once the lesser of the duo's two run scores were taken into account the Live Free Or Die slayer from Seabrook, NH, Scotty Lago, was awarded the third spot on the podium. Scotty's blend of traditional style and signature lead shoulder spinning is what set him apart from the field. Rather than appeasing others who seem hellbent on making halfpipe riding an overly agro endeavor, Scotty stood apart with triple overhead methods and off axis frontside 900's holding his grabs longer than most and incorporating multiple pokes and tweaks whenever possible.
There is no mistaking the dominant force that is Shaun White and as we've come to expect on Wednesday it was once again him versus the rest of the field. Shaun's back to back double cork combo, while high scoring, wasn't enough to give him the lead after the first of two runs and it was apparent that he would need a third double to seal the deal. Few doubted that the most dominant halfpipe rider our sport has ever known and the victor of the first Grand Prix qualifier a month earlier at Copper Mtn., Colorado could still achieve a win, yet once Danny Davis set down his stellar second run Shaun definitely felt the heat. Had White stuck his final hit, an elusive double Mctwist, he would most assuredly achieved the W but such wasn't the case. Not only did Shaun falter on the double Mctwist but he nearly entered the tranny head first. Managing to get his board underneath him in the clutch was a feat in and of itself but emerging unscathed isn't enough for snowboarding's fiercest competitor, and neither is second place. Though highly unlikely, there is still a chance that White, with both a first and a second place finish so far in this qualifying series, won't make the Vancouver Olympic team so expect White to head into the second of the two Mammoth events with renewed vigor.
Though he emerged from the first run on top, Danny Davis took to his second and final appearance with a go for broke approach that would pay off in the end. Starting his run with the cab ten double cork that took him to victory three weeks earlier in Breckenridge, Davis increased both his amplitude and degree of difficulty with each successive hit, culminating with a double cork combo to finish his second run. Danny followed up his frontside 1080 double cork with a move that has never been executed in halfpipe competition to date. That move was a variation of the alley-oop double chuck first introduced to Olympic competition in 2002 by Mike Michalchuck. Danny Davis updated this trick by throwing it switch and in turn winning an event that won't be forgotten anytime soon. This result puts Davis in a good position to make the Olympic team and this reporter is one of many who couldn't be more stoked to have this stoney shred represent us come February. This performance was dedicated to Kevin Pearce and though Kev wasn't onsite in body he was in Mammoth in spirit and I believe most assuredly satisfied with Danny's display.
Stay tuned to Snowboardermag.com for coverage of what will surely be another stellar show in the second Olympic halfpipe qualifier beginning Friday.
Here’s how it all boiled down:
Mens Halfpipe Finals
1. Danny Davis, Detroit, MI, 49.20
2. Shaun White, Carlsbad, CA, 46.20
3. Scotty Lago, Seabrook, NH, 45.00
4. Louie Vito, Sandy, UT, 45.00
5. Elijah Teter, South Lake Tahoe, CA, 44.90
6. Greg Bretz, Mammoth Mountain, CA, 44.50
7. Jeff Bachelor, Canada, 43.50
8. Mathieu Crepel, France, 43.00
9. JJ Thomas, Golden, CO, 41.30
10. Jack Mitrani, Mammoth Mountain, CA, 40.30
Womens Halfpipe Finals
1. Kelly Clark, Mt. Snow, VT, 48.40
2. Hannah Teter, Belmont, VT, 45.20
3. Holly Crawford, Australia, 44.40
4. Gretchen Bleiler, Aspen, CO, 42.50
5. Elena Hight, South Lake Tahoe, CA, 42.40
6. Maddy Schaffrick, Steamboat Springs, CO, 38.70
7. Ellery Hollingsworth, Stratton, VT, 31.00
8. Clair Bidez, Minturn, CO, 39.90