Torstein Horgmo wins Big Air gold
The highly anticipated triple cork battle claimed the skyline above Buttermilk Mountain Friday night, capping off the second day of competition at X Games Aspen 2013 with a come-from-behind victory by one of the discipline's pioneers.
With two previous golds to his name, four-time event medalist and 2012 Big Air silver medalist Torstein Horgmo opened the America's Navy Snowboard Big Air competition with its first triple but lagged behind during much of the 18-minute final, his two-run point total consistently coming up shy against defending gold medalist Mark McMorris and a rampaging Stale Sandbech.
But in the waning minutes, the 25-year-old Norwegian turned it around. Horgmo scored a perfect 50-point run with a switch backside triple cork 1440, the first ever landed in competition, to claim the gold.
"I can't believe it," Horgmo said. "I tried it a week ago and I thought I'd give it a shot here. Any of the other podiums I've been on ever, this was the best one for sure. This was the craziest level of riding that I've ever been a part of."
McMorris also nailed a critical triple on his final hit of the night, a cab triple underflip 1440 -- a trick he had never tried before Friday night, and no one has ever landed in competition before. The judges awarded him with a score of 48, which was not enough to overtake Horgmo, but allowed him to nab the silver medal away from Sandbech, who had held the lead for most of the final jam session.
"Torstein is a boss! What can I say," McMorris said of his friend's victory. "He just absolutely changed the game of snowboarding, and I'm very, very glad I could be a part of it."
Sandbech and his consistent, near-perfect aerial awareness would finish respectably with the bronze. Until the final moments, Sandbech was the only rider to have breached the 90-point mark with his best-of-two point total.
McMorris's final triple tied his score at 94 with Horgmo, but it was the Norwegian's next-best score -- that flawless 50-pointer -- that broke the tie.
Other event highlights included Sebastien Toutant's double backside rodeo 1260s and Ulrik Badertscher going for a clean 1620.
McMorris is scheduled to defend his Slopestyle gold medal Saturday at 3 p.m. ET.
Wise defends title, leads U.S. sweep
Buoyed by the first back-to-back double cork 1260s in competition history, David Wise defended his Ski SuperPipe title and led an American podium sweep on a historic Friday night.
Wise posted both of the night's top scores, 94.66 and 95.66, to hold off 17-year-old Aspen native Torin Yater-Wallace, who posted three runs in the 90s (highlighted by his third-run 93.00) but couldn't match Wise's degree of difficulty.
In addition to Wise's double cork 1260s -- landed in both his natural and unnatural spinning directions -- the Reno, Nev., native also landed a switch double cork 1080, one of the hardest tricks in the sport. He consistently soared more than 17 feet above the pipe walls, reaching 20 feet, 3 inches during his second run.
"It's such a challenge to come out here and beat the best guys in the world," said Wise, who was cheered at the Buttermilk pipe by 10 family members and friends who drove out from Reno. "I had a run that I really wanted to do; I wanted to come out and make a statement. I came out and landed it. It's just an honor to be out here doing what I love."
The surprise of the night may have been Simon Dumont, who claimed the bronze medal while skiing in his 12th consecutive X Games final. It came eight years after he won his second of two gold medals in the same discipline, and he did it despite skiing without poles due to lingering effects from wrist surgery in December.
The American sweep kept three French competitors off the podium and made it 11 straight years that either a U.S. or French skier won gold in this event.
Bowman unseats Groenewoud
With the memory of the late and beloved Sarah Burke warming the frozen night, 19-year-old Maddie Bowman one-upped her own silver-medal performance from last year to take gold in Women's Ski SuperPipe.
Bowman's winning run came early in the night, on her first of three attempts down Buttermilk Mountain's 22-foot-deep pipe. The South Lake Tahoe, Calif., native landed a pair of 900s on her way to scoring a 91.33.
"This is definitely a moment I've been waiting for for a very long time," Bowman said. "It's always been a dream to come here and do this."
"It means a lot (to honor Burke). Sarah would have wanted us to ski as hard as we did."
Burke, a four-time Winter X Games gold medalist, died just before last year's event from injuries sustained while training in Utah.
Burke's former teammate, Roz Groenewoud, who won last year's event with the highest Women's SuperPipe score in X Games history (93.66), was a favorite Friday night to win again.
Groenewoud ended up with the silver medal, while fellow Canadian, 20-year-old Megan Gunning, grabbed bronze.
Groenewoud's climb to the second tier on the podium started from way down in sixth place after a lackluster first run.
"They did the tribute (to Burke) right before my run," she said. "My eyes teared up, my goggles fogged."
Groenewoud regained her composure, however, moving up the leaderboard into second with her next run.
Heading into her third and final run of the night, she was the last skier with a chance to beat Bowman.
With a "Sarah" sticker on her helmet, Groenewoud cleaned up her run out of the gate with some of the biggest airs (over 14 feet out of the pipe) and dialed rotations of the contest, but came up just shy, washing out the landing on her last hit.
"I always like to come away from events feeling as proud as possible, so even though I got second I know I didn't quite ski as well as I could've," she said.
Paradis wins Snowboard Street
French-Canadian urban snowboarding wizard Louis-Felix Paradis joined a rare fraternity of athletes by winning his second gold medal at this competition, dominating the Snowboard Street final after taking home Real Snow gold Thursday.
The man known as "Louif" stomped a clinching transfer between the two down rails on the massive course, a front boardslide to back lipslide, with two minutes left in the 18-minute jam-session final. The judges rewarded him with the highest score of the final, 42 points, which boosted his best-two-runs score to 75. Colorado local Dylan Alito claimed silver with 62 points, and X Games rookie Dylan Thompson took bronze with 59.
"My main focus was on the Real Snow because filming video parts is what I like best," said Paradis, who lives in a house in the woods outside Quebec City. "Competing is not really where I'm at. I don't think it's about winning when you're filming, so the Real Snow felt really good, but this one feels good right now, too. I was super nervous all morning. On the chairlift with my girlfriend I was shaking. I just didn't want to hurt myself, but as the contest got going I saw that I could get some good scores."
After two 15-minute heats narrowed the field from 10 riders to six -- a group that did not include defending gold medalist Forest Bailey, who failed to qualify -- Paradis led the charge in a wildly creative jam session. Jaeger Bailey, 19, and 2012 Snowboard Street silver medalist Ryan Paul got inverted on the urban subway-themed course, which was roughly twice as large as last year's. And Alito added a highly technical rail trick -- a cab 270 onto the exposed flat closeout rail, then a 270 off -- that sealed a huge improvement from his last-place finish in 2012.
"That was pretty nerve-racking to do," Alito said. "Not many people do 270s onto closeout rails. It's hard to get on and be locked on then pop off without hitting that thing."
Paradis' double-gold performance comes after two consecutive years winning silver in Real Snow. He also won silver in Snowboard Street in 2011, and took home Fan Favorite in Real Snow in 2012.
XGames.com's Keith Hamm and Devon O'Neil contributed to this report.