Shaun White headlines field of snowboarders at US Open
By Pat Graham ,APThe freckle-faced 7-year-old with fiery red hair was invited to test out the U.S. Open halfpipe nearly two decades ago before the professional snowboarders went to work.
February 27, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
Although too young to compete, he still left fans in awe that day in Vermont with a dazzling run.
Some things just never change.
Now, just like back then, Shaun White can captivate an audience with his daring tricks.
White will defend his halfpipe title this weekend at the U.S. Open snowboarding championships as the competition moves out west to Vail, Colorado, after a 30-year run at various mountains in Vermont.
As always, White will be the boarder to beat at the event where he once turned heads as a kid, when he took a practice run before the big names competed. After his performance back then, fans asked for his autograph.
Not really knowing cursive, he simply scribbled his name in big, block letters — SHAUN WHITE.
“First time I signed an autograph,” White said in an email.
The Olympic gold medalist has certainly perfected his signature over the years, much like his signature tricks in the halfpipe.
“I remember being at the bottom of the pipe after my run and someone gave me something to sign. I drew a blank,” White explained. “I started just printing my name, crossed out one of the letters and wrote it again.”
And now the 26-year-old White is by far THE biggest name and star attraction.
The Open, an event backed by Burton, has long been a favorite proving ground for boarders, ever since Paul Graves and his buddies came up with the concept of the National Snowboarding Championships in 1982 (nearly four years before White was born).
Whether the Vermont-based event took place at Suicide Six or Snow Valley or Stratton, spectators always turned out in large numbers to watch the best of the best compete. This will take some getting used to: switching to the hills of Vail, with the men's and women's slopestyle final Friday and the halfpipe final Saturday.
“The move to Vail is bittersweet but mostly sweet,” White said. “Vail has an amazing setup so I know they will make the Open special and an event that riders want to come to.”
While Hannah Teter is thrilled by the move to Vail, a part of her also remains sorry to see the event leave the Green Mountain State. Teter grew up going to the U.S. Open to watch her brothers.
“It was always a huge deal to go to that,” she said. “I thought of that as the biggest contest in the world.
“Snowboarding became so mainstream, because of the U.S. Open.”
Teter has been trying out some new maneuvers, hoping to debut them at the competition. That's because defending Open halfpipe champion Elena Hight is altering the game after hitting what snowboarders refer to as a double alley-oop backside rodeo (essentially two backflips with a 180-degree rotation) for the first time in a competition at Winter X last month.
“Elena definitely stepped it up a notch with that,” said Teter, who won Olympic gold at the 2006 Turin Games and silver four years later in Vancouver. “It's pretty inspiring. It made me inspired.”