By Nick Lipton – Skate competition got underway at the Toyota Challenge in Salt Lake City today, with Skate Vert prelims. 17 riders, including the likes of Sandro Dias and Bob Burnquist, had to put it all on the floor to qualify for the Friday Finals, and the chance to take on the current Dew Tour top three PLG, Andy Macdonald, and Bucky Lasek. After plenty of competition Sandro Dias had last drop, but he was already sitting cozy in the top spot and enjoyed a victory lap.
Sandro, as always, skated with a fury only he possesses. The 34 year-old legend skated like a freight train, fast, huge, and powerful. He sent each trick as hard as he could. Multiple 540's came out of the crazed Brazilian including his classic 540 tail-stall and the day's most impressive trick, a 540 over the ramps huge gap.
Right behind Dias in today's prelims were Danny Mayer and Adam Taylor. The young buck Taylor skated like a cat, linking together solid runs that had both technical elements that got the crowd screaming and classic lofty airs. Danny Mayer, sitting on the opposite end of the age spectrum, proved why he's still pro with a show of talent most simply can't touch. Mayer hammered out some funky lip tricks, but his alley-oop backside 180 over the gap sealed the deal that Mayer is still a key player in the vert game.
Four other skaters qualified for the finals. Rob Lorifice snagged his spot with huge rodeos that looked effortless coming from him. Lorifice goes bigger than anyone when he throws his head under his feet, and those spins always get the crowd cheering. Bob Burnquist placed 6th, but don't count him out, he's freaking Bob Burnquist. During practice Bob was working on a few tricks that he kept hidden during the prelims so I'd wait and see how he does tomorrow before judging his current rank.
The last two qualifiers were Anthony Furlong and the last minute Renton Millar. Furlong looked shaky during practice, bailing hard and holding his taped up knee. Maybe he ate some spinach before the prelim, maybe he drank 40 Mountain Dews, but the pain was gone and the kid was on point. Furlong's trick selection was conservative, but his was run was smooth, solid, and included a tail slide into the gap that got a huge reaction from the judges. My bet is Furlong would have placed higher if he had landed his second run, but trying to disaster a gapped extension that is easily three to four feet above the coping is a man trick, and not something you'll often catch in a contest. Renton Millar pulled out a 7th place finish, grabbing that last spot, and again proving he can pull through in the clutch moments. Too bad for Josh Stafford, the kid rode well, but Millar snuck that 7th place spot out in style.
Finals starts tomorrow night at 5pm. The top three in the standings will join today's seven qualifiers in the last stop before PlayStation Pro, where the Dew Tour champ will be crowned. After the wild show in Portland, it'll be interesting to see who sits where in the standings after tomorrow night.