It's not quite a foregone conclusion but if Shaun White merely sticks his routines Friday night at the X Games (which begin Thursday at Aspen, Colo.) and later this month at the Olympics (which begin Feb. 12. at Vancouver), he'll repeat as gold medalist at both halfpipe competitions.
It might have been different if Kevin Pearce and Danny Davis had not recently been injured, but probably not. White, who edged Pearce last year at the X Games and won the gold convincingly at the 2006 Turin Olympics, has raised the level of halfpipe riding to a ridiculous and even dangerous level, and won four of five Grand Prix qualifiers in clinching a spot on the U.S. team.
I don't envision teammates Louie Vito or Scotty Lago (a fourth U.S. men's team rider will be named today), or any foreign snowboarder unveiling a better performance than White. The X Games will be a tune-up, so he might be pushed in the Buttermilk Mountain halfpipe. Another Olympic gold medal is what White has been preparing for during the past two winters, though, so he'll have whatever it takes to get that job done.
That said, check out the video showing the world's best halfpipe rider making the seemingly impossible Double McTwist 1260 look graceful and easy. Some might argue, but he has no legitimate rivals coming into these premier competitions.-- Pete Thomas