Louie Vito said the best snowboarding of his career came last winter, even though he did not make the Sochi Olympic halfpipe team.
“I was putting down runs [in Olympic selection events] that people had never done before, tricks people had never done in certain spots,” Vito said.
The ultimate opinion in halfpipe belongs to judges. They did not share Vito’s point of view.
“It seemed like whatever I did,” Vito said, “I couldn’t get any love on it.”
Vito, who finished fifth at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics at 21 years old, couldn’t crack the top four U.S. riders over a series of selection events leading into Sochi.
Shaun White, Danny Davis (Vito’s roommate from their Stratton Mountain School days), Greg Bretz (a longtime Vito friend) and Taylor Gold went to Russia. Vito went to Chicago and did some riding of his own with a night skyline backdrop along Lake Michigan.
He didn’t watch the Sochi halfpipe final live. No American won a medal for the first time in Olympic history (dating to 1998).
“I had what it took to make the team,” Vito said. “I think I would’ve ridden well in Sochi because the tricks I do, I can land any time anywhere. You put me in a crappy pipe that’s going to be scary, and I’ll put something down. That’s taking nothing away from the Team USA guys.”
Vito later viewed highlights, focused on the Americans and also what kind of runs earned medals.
“It comes back down to what the judges were into,” Vito said, echoing his thoughts from the Vancouver final and the Olympic selection events. “I felt like I could’ve put something down to make it a competitive run. I can’t say where it would’ve landed me.”
Vito earned vindication one week after the Sochi Olympic team was named. He took second at the Winter X Games, his best-ever finish at the event*.
“That helped me make sense of everything,” Vito said. “Keep on riding the way I want to ride.”
Vito plans on riding for a while longer, perhaps to 2018 and beyond. All while continuing his away-from-competition ventures.
The former “Dancing with the Stars” contestant hosts a rail jam event for young riders in his native Ohio in December and will take part in the Wings for Life World Run for a second straight year on May 3. (Vito logged 13 miles before a chase car caught him at last year’s run, which was two miles more than Lolo Jones and 4.5 miles more than Mark McMorris.)
His next halfpipe season starts at the Dew Tour Mountain Championships in Breckenridge, Colo., in three weeks.
“I went back to the drawing board a little bit [after missing Sochi], not in the sense of figuring out the next greatest trick in the world, but in differentiating yourself from the rest of the field,” Vito said.
*Clarification: Vito also owns two gold medals from the European Winter X Games.