Jiayu Liu and Shaun White victorious in season's third Halfpipe World Cup
Chinese and US riders triumphant
Jiayu Liu (CHN) and Shaun White (USA) clinched the third halfpipe contest of the FIS Snowboard World Cup season in Park City Mountain Resort, Utah, today.
Olympic champion Shaun White, who earned the highest score of the day (97.3), led a USA sweep. The 26 years-old from Carlsbad, CA, celebrated his career's fourth World Cup win ahead of Olympic Bronze medalist Scott Lago (USA, 94.5) and Luke Mitrani (USA, 91.8).
However, the snowboard super star was forced to prove his nerves of steel. Due to an usual fall in his first attempt, White had to put it all together with all pressure on him dropping in second to last.
“The first run was good but it's a bit about riding different halfpipes. This one had a little bit more vert than the others I was riding before. I didn't take that into account so I landed really flat but tried to do the double McTwist anyway but it didn't work out.
It was a do or die scenario for the second run. But I knew I was going to make it because I had to. Usually, when I fall, I get encouraged. That helped me for the second run,” said White.
And yes it did. The two-time Olympic Champion, who had his first World Cup appearance twelve years ago at the same venue, nailed a backside air to frontside 1080 double cork, cab 1080 double cork, frontside 540 stale fish, double McTwist and an alley oop rodeo 540 thus edging off his team mates by just a few points.
“It makes the win even more worth it after a fall. I had to come from the back of the heat and people were putting amazing runs down. When Scotty (Lago) and Luke (Mitrani) put down their runs, that was the defining moment. It pumped me up. I'm really happy.”
However, although knowing that it was very close his – once again – beaten rivals were also pleased.
“My second run was honestly probably one of the better runs I've ever put down, including practice and contests. I couldn't be happier. I couldn't have topped it either,” recapped Lago, who had thrown in a cab 1080 double cork to frontside 540, backside 900 mute, frontside 900 inverted nose, backside 540 mute and a final frontside 1260 truckdriver just a some twenty minutes before White delivered again.
“You never know with Shaun (White), he's on his own program. We were all kind of surprised to see him here, too, but he needed to get some points to become eligible for the Olympics.
You can never count him out obviously. I thought I had a really good shot today. That was probably the closest I've been to him in a while,” summed up Lago, who was leading until White dropped the bomb again.
Also third ranked Luke Mitrani, who not only took the World Cup lead with 1,400 points (40 points ahead of Lago) but also the Grand Prix Overall title, drew a similar line.
“We're all just like neck-and-neck and with Shaun (White) and of course he is still on top, but one day, watch out!”
However, despite all the sunshine around and smily faces, Mitrani also had the time to remember.
“Something that no one really ever mentioned is that one of my best friends, Kevin Pearce, got hurt in this halfpipe. There's a lot of pressure being up there for some reason. I had to do the same trick that he fell on. I just remember kind of stressing out.
At the end of the day, just to walk away from this halfpipe and nobody's hurt, I think that's a good achievement. I can't really realize it yet but I'm very happy. It was my goal to bring home a medal, so I'm very happy that I was able to achieve it.”
Liu on top of her game
On the women's side, everyone was expecting the other super star to take home Gold and glory but unlike White, Kelly Clark (USA) didn't bring down her run and fell twice.
While the veteran in female snowboarding finished sixth and thus still sits in a comfortable lead (2,200 points) for the race for the World Cup Globe, Jiayu Liu finally underlined again, that she is back on top of her game.
The fourth ranked rider of the 2010 Olympics took the top seat in the women's finals at the second stop of the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix tour which rewarded points for both, FIS World Cup and World Snowboard Tour, with 82 points thus relegating reigning FIS World Champion Arielle Gold (USA, 80.3) and Kaitlyn Farrington (USA, 73.3) to second and third.
It was her career's eighth and the first time ever that a Chinese rider won a Grand Prix event. History was written due to a flawless frontside indy air to method, frontside 540 stale fish, backside 540 mute, frontside 720 melon and a cab 720 to finish things off leaving the former FIS World Champion (2009) with a big smile on her face.
“I'm very happy. Today is such a good day. The pipe is good. Everything is perfect. All the girls were doing good so I'm happy to be first.”
Liu just came in slightly ahead of Arielle Gold who had brought down a method to frontside 540 stale fish, backside 540 mute, frontside air tail, 720 mute and a cab 720 mute.
“I landed a run that I felt pretty good about, but I could have done better. I expected more from myself, I was hoping to put down a better run. In practice I shined myself pretty hard on the coping and it made me a bit timid during the contest. I was really just trying to land a run on my feet.”
But in the end, the 16-years-old from Steamboat Springs, CO, was also pleased with another title to her belt as she finished on top of the Grand prix ranking based on the results of both, Copper Mountain and Park City Mountain Resort.
“Winning the National Champion award was such a treat and surprise, I wasn't expecting it and I am honoured to be up there.”