ASPEN, Colo.—Even with the 2006 Torino Olympics looming in the very near future, athletes showed no signs of holding back as the 10th-annual ESPN Winter X Games kicked off in Aspen on Saturday.
Some 6,000 spectators turned out for the first day of games, which included men’s and women’s snowboard slopestyle, snowboarder X, women’s superpipe, and a concert from Damian Marley in downtown’s Wagner Park.
The Games’ first event, the women’s snowboard slopestyle, had all the drama of previous decades. Top-ranked Janna Meyen, winner of last year’s event, waited until her last run to post a massive come-from-behind victory over Big Bear, California’s Hana Beaman. Meyen stuck big cab 720 on the one of the course’s five booters to ring up a score of 91.33. Jamie Anderson, 15, of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished third, before hustling over for the Snowboarder X finals.
In women’s Snowboarder X, Visa poster girl and two-time X Games champion Lindsey Jacobellis injured her knee during a practice run and dropped out of competition. “I’m really disappointed,” Jacobellis said. “In no way does this change my status for the 2006 Winter Olympics. I’m still looking forward to riding strong in Torino.”
On the men’s side, all six of the finalists-including Americans Seth Wescott and Nate Holland-will compete in Torino next month. Squaw Valley’s Holland overtook Wescott on the courses’ many airs and rollers en route to the win.
Everyone’s favorite red-headed snowboarder Shaun White silenced critics who doubted his ability to dominate the increasingly talented slopestyle field while spending most of his time training in the pipe. Podium regular Danny Kass put together a technical run that ended with a cab 900, but it wasn’t enough to beat White, whose 95.00 score beat Kass and second-place finisher Andreas Wiig. Jackson, Wyoming’s Travis Rice, who spends most of his time riding in the backcountry, nearly pulled out a podium finished, but couldn’t stick the landing on his last jump: a floaty, off-axis 1080.
Under the lights on Buttermilk’s 525-foot-long, 18-foot high superpipe, Olympic gold medalist took advantage of a field that was missing Hannah Teter and last year’s gold medalist Gretchen Bleiler to take her fourth piece of X Games hardware. “I questioned whether or not to be here,” Clark told reporters after the run. “But I love the X Games. I rode my hardest and came out on top, so I’m glad I did.”
Skiers take the hill for slopestyle and Skier X tomorrow. Ski superpipe finals happen on primetime Tuesday night. Watch all the action live on ESPN, and stay tuned to skiingmag.com for live results, video, photos, and athlete interviews.