ASPEN, Colo. (AP) – Chloe Kim got the win, of course.
The other women on the Winter X Games halfpipe put on quite a show, too, and delivered a message: They’re not going to just hand Kim the gold medal two-and-a-half weeks from now at the PyeongChang Olympics.
The 17-year-old Olympic favorite delivered on a pressure-packed final run Saturday night, coming through with her patented back-to-back 1080s to edge out Arielle Gold, who just moments earlier made it through a difficult run that she had never landed in competition.
“I like being in a situation like that, if that makes any sense,” Kim said. “It makes me more hungry to land a run, and especially to land back-to-back 10s.'”
Maddie Mastro stomped her first 1080 in competition to rise to third place and also make clear that if Kim isn’t at her best in PyeongChang, she might be ready to take the gold, too.
“It felt pretty crazy, pretty surreal,” Mastro said. “It happened so quickly. I didn’t know what was happening, I was in the air and then on my feet and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I landed it.'”
Yet another American Olympian, Kelly Clark, finished fourth and was not there for the dramatic third and final round after hitting the deck hard on her second run and checking out with a left knee injury.
Kim won her third X Games Aspen gold medal with a score of 93.33, one point better than Gold, the 21-year-old who, four years ago in Sochi, was on her final training run when she skidded out, fell hard and separated her shoulder.
Gold briefly grabbed first place with a run that included a frontside 1080, a pair of 900s and one air that took her 11 feet, 2 inches above the lip of the halfpipe. It applied a rare bit of pressure on Kim, who has been running away in contests as the only woman who can land the back-to-back 1080s.
“I like doing that,” Gold said. “I don’t think she feels it enough. We’re good buds. That’s what snowboarding is about, pushing each other to be the best.”
Kim had led after two rounds despite not landing the back-to-back 1080s either time. But she saved the best for last. Her first jump out of the pipe was the night’s highest – 14 feet, 1 inch above the 22-foot wall – and then she completed the frontside 10 to cab 10 combo that had been bedeviling her all evening.
“Thanks to Arielle for putting me in that situation where I wanted to do it more than ever,” Kim said. “But more importantly, I’m so happy for her. I almost cried tears of joy when she landed. I was so stoked for her, just watching her work so hard and it paying off.”
If it was a preview of what’s to come at the Olympics, then the final there, on Feb. 13, will be must-see viewing.
But the men’s final, scheduled for Sunday night, will be missing its biggest name.
After practicing on the X Games halfpipe all week, two-time Olympic champion Shaun White withdrew and headed home to California to rest up for the trip to California. All White’s biggest challengers – Ayumu Hirano, Iouri Podladtchikov and Scotty James – are set to start Sunday, while White watches from home.
All the best, however, were on hand for the women’s – and throwing their best tricks.
“I think everyone is just progressing so quick and so fast,” Mastro said. “Anything can happen.”