Louie Vito

Louie Vito

Louie Vito hopes to stand out after missing Olympics

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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.

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Danny Davis preps for Sochi by winning Winter X Games halfpipe

Danny Davis
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Danny Davis made the most of his first Winter X Games halfpipe final appearance, winning the biggest pre-Olympic competition in Aspen, Colo., on Sunday night.

“I can’t believe it,” Davis said on ESPN. “I’m gonna ride this switch method train as long as it’ll last.”

Davis, one of four U.S. halfpipe snowboarders going to Sochi, prevailed with a second-run score of 95 points. He also likes to recreate “Dumb and Dumber” scenes.

Louie Vito, who did not qualify for the Olympics, came in second with 93 points. Greg Bretz, who is going to Sochi, was third with 89.33.

The top qualifier into the final, Swiss Iouri Podladtchikov, failed to cleanly land his patented 1440 YOLO Flip in all three runs and finished sixth.

Shaun White, who won every halfpipe title from 2008 to 2013, skipped X Games for the first time this millennium.

“It’s bittersweet when Shaun’s not here,” Davis said. “He’s the one to beat, but forget it. I’ll take it.”

Podladtchikov, colloquially known as I-Pod, and Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, who is 15, are considered the top challengers to White’s bid for an Olympic halfpipe threepeat Feb. 11. Hirano did not compete at X Games one year after coming in second to White.

On Jan. 6, 2010, Davis beat White en route to what looked like his first Olympic berth. But in the early morning hours of Jan. 17, he drunkenly rode an ATV with friends into a metal fence, breaking his third lumbar vertebrae and shattering his pelvis.

Davis has said he valued a Winter X Games gold over Olympic gold. As for Sochi now?

“I think you can tell that the Americans are looking pretty darn good,” Davis said.

Complete U.S. Olympic Team roster

Shaun White clinches Olympic halfpipe spot

Shaun White
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Shaun White is officially qualified for two events at the Sochi Olympics.

White wrapped up his spot on the U.S. Olympic Team in halfpipe by winning the final selection event in Mammoth Mountain, Calif., on Sunday. The two-time Olympic champion won with a first-run score of 96.6 points and erred in his second run.

White joins the already qualified Taylor Gold as well as Greg Bretz, who was off the podium Sunday but made it via strong results in the first two selection events in December.

(Update: Danny Davis earned the fourth and final Olympic berth as a discretionary selection announced a half-hour after competition ended.)

White, 27, capped a tumultuous month of Olympic qualifying. He crashed in the first Olympic selection event in halfpipe, injuring an ankle, and was not able to qualify for the Olympic Team in either slopestyle or halfpipe until this final weekend. Weather postponements did not help.

“It was a long [week], but I made the team,” White said on NBC. “I’m pretty happy. It’s everything I could have hoped for.

“I’m one of the only guys doing both [halfpipe and slopestyle]. Juggling the two has been out of hand. It’s really demanding to switch gears and do both, but I’m doing it. I’m making my way.”

White is favored to win Olympic gold in halfpipe and could become the first American man to win the same Winter Olympic event three times.

He might not compete again before the Olympic slopestyle competition that begins Feb. 6, one day before the Opening Ceremony. White has said he is likely to skip this week’s Winter X Games, which would be his first absence from the event this millennium.

It sounds like White could use the rest. His band, Bad Things, releases its debut album Tuesday.

“I’m pretty worked still,” White said. “I would be lying to say I’m all good. I knew I had one really good run in me. That’s kind of my Achilles. I get lazy on the second run if I post a really good score [in the first run].”

His top Olympic threats may not be Americans — Swiss Iouri Podladtchikov and Japanese Ayumu Hirano could also win. White performed a trick in a victory Friday that was first done in competition by Podladtchikov last year — a double cork 1440.

“To put my run down with the new trick I’ve got going, it’s really pulling its weight,” White said. “They’re definitely up to my expectation. I’ve been waiting to pull these new tricks out.”

Gold qualified for the Olympic Team before White on Friday. He is the older brother of Arielle Gold, who qualified for the women’s team earlier Sunday.

Bretz beat White in the first Olympic selection event in December. He finished 12th at the 2010 Olympics.

Davis would have made the 2010 Olympic Team if not for a drunken ATV ride that left him with a broken back four years ago.

Two 2010 Olympians — bronze medalist Scotty Lago and Louie Vito — did not make the 2014 Olympic Team.

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