LOS ANGELES (AP) — Given one last chance to win at the X Games, Shaun White showed he still knows how to seize a spotlight – and a gold medal, too.
White won the X Games skateboard vert competition Saturday night, dramatically edging rival Pierre-Luc Gagnon on their final run.
After crashing on his penultimate run, White scored a 93.00 with a dizzying sequence of tough tricks on his last chance against Gagnon, the three-time defending X Games champion. Gagnon crashed moments later, and White celebrated his first X Games title in vert since 2007, and just his second victory in eight tries.
“I put down probably the best run I’ve ever done in my skateboarding career,” said White, the two-time Olympic snowboarding gold medalist. “I figured if Pierre beat it, he deserved it for sure.”
Four-time gold medalist Bucky Lasek finished third with an 87.66. New York City’s Elliot Sloan (67.66) and high-flying Adam Taylor (62.66) also made the final, but couldn’t compete with the three dominant skaters in their sport’s highest-profile competition.
White has a thriving two-sport career and international celebrity that transcends both disciplines, but he hadn’t won the X Games’ marquee skateboarding event in four years. He lost to Gagnon at last year’s X Games, and didn’t compete the previous year while focusing on his Olympic quest.
After both stars comfortably reached the final out of the 10-man first round, White made a flawless first run, but still fell behind after Gagnon posted a 91.66 on an impressive fourth run. White fell on his face on his next-to-last run, getting up holding his ribs and figuring his chances were gone.
But Gagnon, a Canadian who lives near White in Carlsbad, Calif., likely missed a chance to end the competition during his own penultimate run. Instead, his crash left a little time on the clock in the 12-minute jam session, allowing every skater to make another run.
“Bob (Burnquist) told me I could have just run out the time and the contest would have ended,” Gagnon said. “(White’s) run was amazing. I’m not taking anything away from him. He deserved it.”
White was grateful Gagnon didn’t know he could have run out the clock.
“That’s like taking a knee in football, though,” White said to Gagnon with a grin after the competition. “That’s like me winning without you there. It doesn’t really count. … Standing up there at the top, I remembered something my brother told me: `Man, you’ve got to stop thinking and just do what you used to do. Just do your thing.”‘
With a reprieve, White landed an impressive combination of tricks for the winning score, bringing the Los Angeles crowd to its feet with a 720-degree spins and two body varial frontside 540s which included his signature flair with grabs.
White pumped his sleeveless arms and incited the roaring crowd after his run. When Gagnon fell on his first attempt at a trick off the halfpipe, White pumped his fist and hugged several friends, employees and strangers.
“After I landed that (720), I thought to myself, `I’m making this happen, I don’t care,”‘ White said. “We’re still friends, and I know he’s going to be gunning for me next year.
White has figured out how to transition between his two sports with the changing of the seasons, although it gets tougher every year. The 24-year-old White finds his spring move from snowboarding to skateboarding to be tougher than the reverse in the fall, and he does his early-season skateboard training by himself out of embarrassment with his rustiness.
But White has balanced his myriad endorsement deals and celebrity with hard work that finally paid off at the X Games. He finished third behind Lasek and Gagnon at last week’s Dew Tour stop in Ocean City, Md., but figured his performance would improve under the spotlight of action sports’ biggest competition in downtown Los Angeles.
White has won 21 combined gold medals in the summer and winter versions of ESPN’s made-for-television competition.
“If X Games wasn’t here, I would still be doing the things I’m doing, because it’s what I like to do,” White said. “I found this when I was younger. It basically found me, and I love this sport. The feeling I get when I’m landing a new trick, there’s nothing better. I love that the X Games has taken guys like ourselves and put us on this stage to be recognized as athletes.”