A U.S. podium sweep of any sort is always a special occasion, but the men’s superpipe skiing podium sweep at the X Games Oslo was even more special than most.
Torin Yater-Wallace stood atop the podium; in November, he was in a medically-induced paralysis.
A teenage sensation in the pipe, Yater-Wallace had four X Games medals to his name before he turned 18. Now 20, he suffered several years of injuries and illnesses and had not been able to add to his medal total until his gold in Oslo. He scored a 91.33 on his first run to put himself solidly in medal contention right off the bat, but bettered that in his second run with a huge 95.00 that would eventually win him the gold medal.
Yater-Wallace’s health misfortunes began with a punctured lung in 2013, followed by several broken ribs before the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, where he finished 26th. In November 2015, he started feeling flu-like symptoms. Doctors visits didn’t show much, but his condition worsened as he began struggling to breathe with a sharp pain in his side. A scan at the hospital showed that his liver and gallbladder were inflamed; an infection caused by an abcess in his liver was filling his lungs with fluid. He spent two weeks in intensive care hooked up to a ventilator, some of that time in a medically-induced paralysis so his body could more effectively fight the infection.
The infection – the cause of which is still a mystery – kept Yater-Wallace out of competition for most of the season. Despite a return trip to the hospital in December, Yater-Wallace was cleared to ski again on Jan. 10, a full two months after he first fell ill. He made his return to competition at the X Games Aspen on his home snow in Colorado, finishing fifth in the superpipe.
Right behind Yater-Wallace on the Oslo podium were compatriots Alex Ferreira with the silver and Gus Kenworthy with bronze. Ferreira put down his highest score on his first run, a massive 93.33, exclaiming “I don’t know if I can do better!” as he waited for his score to be announced. Competing in a bib that said, “Hello, my name is Alex” on the front, Ferreira made sure that people would remember his name, claiming the highest X Games finish of his career; he previously had two bronze medals to his name, won in Aspen in 2014 and 2015.
With the bronze medal, Kenworthy continued a stunning X Games resurgence that he began in Aspen. Prior to 2016, he had just one medal in 16 X Games starts. But after coming out as gay in 2015, Kenworthy could finally ski free of burden, and he’s done so to phenomenal results. In Aspen he earned silver in both slopestyle and superpipe, becoming the first athlete to medal in both disciplines since Jon Olsson in 2005. In the Oslo superpipe, Kenworthy fell in each of his first two runs before catapulting himself into bronze-medal position with a final run worth 90.33. The day before, Kenworthy earned a bronze in big air, which will debut at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, for his career-first X Games medal in that event.
Wow, what an insane night! After falling in my first two runs I'm so stoked I was able to land my third and final run and secure a another podium! Can't give enough props to the kid, @torinyw for taking the win tonight. He is a champion in every sense of the word. At the beginning of the season Torin got an infection and ended up getting so sick that he was on life support - now he's back on top of the @xgames podium! Also big ups to @alex_ferreira3 for landing an incredible run and taking home 2nd place. Couldn't be more proud to be a part of this U.S. (and Colorado) podium sweep! Thank you Oslo for being such an amazing host city for the X Games and to everybody who showed up to watch the events live and to all of you who tuned in online! Now for the after party! 🇳🇴🎿🇺🇸🍾🏅#xgames #xgamesoslo #dejavu 📷: @shay_will