Winter X Games: Hall, Eliassen claim skiing superpipe crownsASPEN, Colorado – Grete Eliassen and Tanner Hall were crowned skiing superpipe champions on Tuesday, the last day of the 2006 X Games.
Hall's winning run featured 20-foot airs and clean 1080s that the field could not match. It is Hall's first in superpipe gold in seven years competing at Winter X. He has two superpipe silvers and three slopestyle golds, but standing at the top of the podium in superpipe was a long time coming for Hall, who opted to skip the slopestlye competition to focus on the pipe.
The win marked an incredible comeback for Hall, who has faced two major setbacks to his skiing career in less than a year. In March 2005 he undershot a 120-foot gap near Alta, Utah, and broke the talus and heel bones in both ankles. Even though he claimed he would not return to competition in the fall, Hall was back on skis in December.
'Coming back from the injury, there was a lot more in my head, but it was picture perfect," Hall said of his winning run.
Hall dedicated his victory to his close friend, business partner and fellow X Games competitor C.R. Johnson. Just as Hall was coming back from his injury, Johnson suffered a devastating head injury while filming a ski movie for The Bigger Picture, the company Hall and Johnson started. While filming a succession of skiers, including Johnson, jumping off a cliff the skier after Johnson crashed into him hitting him just below the helmet. Johnson spent 34 days in the hospital, much of it in a medically-induced coma. He was released in January and, though he faces a long recovery, made the trip to Aspen to support his X-Games friends.
"I talked to C.R. afterward and he said he was sending me good energy," Hall told EXPN. "Somewhere up above someone was looking down on us and it's all good."
In second, Laurent Favre of La Clusaz, France, said he has been skiing the pipe better than ever in his life. 'I try to go big because I'm not scared. I am not as technical as Tanner. I just had fun tonight, just skied for myself' he said.
His joy showed through. He was 23 feet out on his first alley oop of his last run. Favre was also throwing an amazing switch 900 at the bottom.
Also coming back from a massive injury was two-time X Games superpipe gold medalist Simon Dumont. On March 11, 2005 Dumont overshot a 100-foot gap by 100 feet on a snowmobile tow-in at Park City, Utah. Dumont fractured his pelvis in three places and ruptured a spleen. None-the-less, the 19-year-old pro was back on skis 8 weeks later.
Despite his miraculous recovery, Dumont was clearly not 100 percent for the pipe competition and suffered back spasms the entire night. He soldiered though and delivered a world-class run.
'If I can get third with 50 percent, I don't think I can complain' he said.
Dumont was planning to do two runs but the crowd got louder and egged him on, and his third run was most aggressive and highest of the three.
As the morning got going in Aspen on Tuesday, the snow began to fall. Men's superpipe qualifying was held in the dump, and it continued through the women's final jam session in the pipe.
The jam-session format allows the competitors to make as many runs as they wish in 45 minutes, with the best run scoring. A competitor can go for some envelope-pushing tricks — if they don't work, they can back off and try again. Conversely, if the skier has a great run, they can let that stand and not risk injury.
The women battled the poor visibility and slow snow to turn in some surprisingly good performances. Despite a major hip bruise, Gina Gmeiner did compete — her spirit was indomitable. 'I could barely walk last night and they tried to make me go to the hospital, but I was like, 'No way, I'm not giving up on my first X Games!'' she said.
The slow conditions did not affect Eliassen, who snagged her second consecutive gold in pipe. Eliassen stomped the comp — she had speed, amplitude and enough technical tricks to dust everyone. 'I really wanted to go big, I wanted to make a point that we [women] can go big too' she said.
Elaissen attributed her speed to her Armada support team: 'I have a really good tech crew, his name is Dano.'
With all the new snow falling over the course of the Games, tuning and base prep were suddenly a huge part of winning, or even getting enough air to throw one's tricks. Elaissen agreed: 'It's getting bigger and bigger, people are noticing that the guys who are going bigger have race bases, they are getting their skis waxed over a hundred times, those are the guys winning.'
Her winning run was a straight air, alley-oop 540, air, alley-oop 180, 540, air, to 720, and she was at least five feet out on every hit.
The rest of the women's field was severely slowed by the powder, and Sarah Burke was barely able to get enough air to throw her 900. She did get it several times, though, and clinched silver.
'I didn't get the run that I wanted. It was the luck of the skis, they didn't fly' she said.
Burke agreed that tuning was paramount: 'I've never tuned a pair of skis in my life in this sport. In skiercross they have six people working on everyone's skis, and on days like today that's what we need, even though we've never needed it before.'
Marie Martinod overcame her consistency issues to take third with an aggressive run and the only inverted trick of the field.
X Games Tuesday results
1. Tanner Hall – Park City, Utah
2. Laurent Favre – La Clusaz, France
3. Simon Dumont – Bethel, Maine
4. Loic Collomb-Patton – La Clusaz, France
5. Andreas Hatveit – Sudndalen, Norway
1. Grete Eliassen – Lillehammer, Norway
2. Sarah Burke – Squamish, B.C., Canada
3. Marie Martinod-Routin – Aix Les Bains, France
4. Kristi Leskinen – Uniontown, Pa.
5. Jess Cumming – Wilton, Conn.