It was reigning champion Kelly Clark’s last run.
Elena Hight was coming on strong, breaking records at the X Games on Saturday night as she became the first person to land a double alley-oop backside rodeo in a snowboard superpipe competition.
Hight, 23, a South Lake Tahoe, Calif., resident, pulled the elusive trick on her first run. Many pro snowboarders have tried to land the trick, including five-time X Games gold medalist Shaun White — but he has only put it down in practice.
At the top of the run, Hight said she debated whether to pull the trick in her first lap. She decided to go for it, and the run earned her a 90.00, which was strong enough to hold the lead until Clark’s launch.
Clark, 25, from Mammoth Lakes, Calif., had had two average runs going into her last lap. And that’s when her steady technique and big amplitude beat out Hight’s innovation.
Clark reached 13.9 feet of air on a frontside 1080 flip and averaged just over 11 feet of height across her five jumps. Hight averaged 8.14 feet of air off the superpipe en route to her second-place run.
With the win, Clark became the first woman to win three X Games gold medals in snowboard superpipe history.
Hight had planned to throw the double alley-oop backside rodeo at these X Games for about a year, she said.
“That’s what I came out here to do,” Hight said.
Despite nailing the trick, she acknowledged that she deserved the lower score, as she could have gone bigger on her other jumps.
Clark, always an ambassador for the sport, cheered Hight’s accomplishment, arguing that Hight was the true winner of the night.
“It is about tonight, but it also about the sport,” Clark said. “And what Elena has done for the sport is incredible.”
Overall, the level of women’s snowboarding is at an all-time high, Clark said.
Hight agreed, saying the next big trick a woman will pull on the superpipe is likely going to be a triple alley-oop, which men are already landing in snowboard superpipe competitions.
“We’re a step behind them but we’re totally capable,” Hight said.
Breckenridge resident Arielle Gold, who entered the competition as an alternate after Snowmass Village’s Gretchen Bleiler opted out of competing on Wednesday, took the bronze.
Gold had heard rumors that she might make it to the finals in the days leading up to the competition, but she said didn’t expect to get in. The fact that she made the podium came as a shock, she said.
“I just can’t believe I’m sitting here,” Gold said in a press conference with the winners.