A proud member of Team USA, Greg Bretz will be competing in Sochi at the 2014 Winter Games. To stay up on the latest from Greg and the other Dew Tour athletes, keep it locked on NBCOlympics.com.
With the recent announcement that the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships is now a USSA-sanctioned Olympic selection event, the level of competition during this year’s Men’s Snowboard Superpipe Final was off the richter including the biggest names in the sport from across the globe. The day's event took place in ideal conditions with bright sunshine and light snowfall.
After a suspenseful qualifier earlier this week, 16 riders earned the opportunity to not only claim Dew Tour prestige, but to also increase their chance at making the U.S. Olympic Snowboarding Team to represent their country in Sochi in February.
The superpipe featured at Breckenridge brought back the epic angle of the cable camera down the middle of the pipe—showing both frontal and from behind perspectives—which helps to showcase the amplitude and technicality of the world's best riders. Look for the same technology to be featured later this season when the select few riders take their drops at the Sochi Games.
The camera angles weren’t the only thing offering excitement to the event. The pipe itself, at a length of 600ft, makes it the longest superpipe currently in existence, allowing the riders the chance to hit another wall and add another trick to their runs.
Kicking off the event was the Swiss threat Iouri Podladtchikov, aka I-Pod, who's well-known for having the tools to take the win in the pipe and has been looked to as a potential foreign upset to the one and only Shaun White. White qualified first during the qualifier earlier in the week with his first run before taking a relaxed victory lap. Unfortunately for I-Pod, he took a spill on his first run and was sentenced to the bottom of the leaderboard for the remainder of the first round of runs.
A similar story unfolded for American Scotty Lago. Lago's first run was unfortunately very reminiscent of his run in the pipe last year where he fumbled on his first hit. Lago has been hungry for his chance at Dew Tour redemption, but would have to rely entirely on his second run. This was not the story, however, for fellow U.S. teammate Louie Vito. Vito rode well on his first run and showed the crowd his double cork control — Vito was the first rider to land four consecutive double corks in one run during the 2011-2012 season at Dew Tour. Vito's first run earned him a score of 88.00 and the temporary top spot.
If there was one rider that the world was watching to take the top of the podium away from White it was Japan's 15-year-old omen, Ayumu Hirano. Hirano hit the pipe hard on his first run, but he, too, took a spill on his third double cork in his run at the bottom of the pipe. Hirano had to hold his breath and hope for a better performance during his second and final run.
Taking spills on the first run was something of trend during the final. White was considered the safe bet as he is almost always on point with every trick, this, however, was not the case. White seemed to have missed his pop near the bottom of the pipe on a backside double cork 1260 attempt, leaving him hitting the pipe wall in a somewhat violent way.
With Greg Bretz holding down the top spot with a score of 91.40 at the end of the first round of runs, while White was all the way down in 11th place, the second half of the event had everyone in high anticipation.
Returning in round two of the final, both I-Pod and Lago made major improvements from their first run attempts, but both of them took one landing a little low and lightly scraped their hands taking them both out of podium contention.
Taking a fall on his second run, Bretz was unable to improve his score, leaving the door open for White to come back in his second run and reclaim his usual spot atop the podium.
However, it was not to be. With everything coming down to the final run of the event, White was ready to take his redemption run. Shaking off his first run fall, White came out and laid down a full run but wasn't quite as clean as usual. After a dramatic wait at the bottom of the corral, White was awarded 2nd place with a 90.4, and it was Bretz pulling off the monumental upset.
"I missed the take off and it just came around too slow. I had the mess-up, but it happens," said White with regard to his first run spill. "I kind of sprained my ankle from an old injury, I tweaked it a bit. I was not really holding back, but it was in the back of mind, I guess," said White when speaking to his performance on his second run.
White went on to compliment his fellow rider, Bretz, and victor for the day saying, "he's a great rider."
Bretz was in a daze following the announcement naming him the day's champion, "I'm extremely ecstatic right now. It's been a long time since I won an event back in 2008. This being an Olympic year and coming in extremely strong and confident, [the win] still hasn't sunk in yet," said Bretz. He went on to speak toward his game plan coming into today's event. "My strategy was not to focus on anybody else's riding and just be stoked on myself and that's what I did."
Following the podium and award ceremony, White hopped off the podium, walked straight over to the sideline and made young fan Connor Tripp's day by handing him his second place trophy.
"Shaun White gave me his trophy! It's exciting," said the stunned Tripp. This was Tripp's first Dew Tour event, and when asked what he thought of it he qucikly snapped back, "it's cool!"
Notably, the the top four finishers in the event were all Americans. While White and Vito were projected to perform well in the USSA selection events, Greg Bretz and Taylor Gold were a little overlooked coming into the competition season. Following today's impressive showings, both Bretz and Gold are going to find themselves inside the top three for USSA points after the first selection event. The rest of the Sochi hopefuls are officially on notice.
1st Place – Greg Bretz
2nd Place - Shaun White
3rd Place – Taylor Gold
4th Place - Louie Vito
5th Place - Scotty James
6th Place - Ayumu Hirano
7th Place - Danny Davis
8th Place - Ben Ferguson
9th Place - Benji Farrow
10th Place - Christian Haller
11th Place - Scotty Lago
12th Place - Kent Callister
13th Place - Iouri Podladtchikov
14th Place - Taku Hiraoka
15th Place - Zack Black
16th Place - Spencer Shaw