Lamoureux, Nicoll hold their own against top halfpipe riders 

Shaun White steals the show at Cypress

 

While anyone who follows snowboarding on a regular basis might have seen it coming, spectators who haven't tuned into the sport of halfpipe since the 2006 Games might have noticed a few changes.

For one thing, the athletes are going bigger - much bigger. While a rider launching 10 or 15 feet out of the pipe may have seemed huge a few years ago, some of the top male riders were airing out 20 feet or more. With the 22-foot walls of the pipe riders were flying four storeys into the air.

Athletes are also spinning more, with athletes working extra rotations and half rotations into their routines this time around. With all the extra air they have lots of extra time.

Spectators will also have noticed that going inverted once is old hat. Especially when American star Shaun White busted out the first ever 1260 double McTwist in a pro contest - two complete flips with three and a half twists, grabbing his board at the same time. White has named the trick "The Tomahawk" after a 30 ounce steak he tackled in Aspen.

The men's halfpipe at Cypress was great show Wednesday, from the qualifiers to the finals. And fans were well-rewarded for hanging in there.

White's final run alone was worth the price of admission, especially since he didn't need to do it to win - he already accomplished that in his previous run and there was nobody left to beat him. He did it purely to put on a show, because that's what White has grown up doing. His no-pressure victory lap was scored as a 48.4 out of a possible 50.

Asked whether snowboarding had hit a limit in terms of air and tricks, White said it was possible.

"I'm sure that we've hit the spike and I'm hoping it will now mellow out," he said. "I've pushed myself to the fullest and now I deserve a break, I think."

White ought to know. In order to perform at his best this season he built his own halfpipe in the backcountry to train. He has entered every contest this season as the favourite. But the sport is not easy, despite all the training; injuries are common.

"I felt a lot of pressure," he said. "Last time (2006) I had an undefeated season. I put it down completely. This was in no way like the last time. I've crashed, I've taken the lumps as they come, I've almost lost my head at the X Games, which was fun. It wasn't easy, I did all the work to make it look easy."

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