It was a night for the unexpected.
As anticipation built for Saturday’s X Games Aspen women’s superpioe snowboarding competition, all eyes were on 16-year-old phenom Chloe Kim and whether she would extend a year-long winning streak by becoming the first athlete to win four X Games gold medals before the age of 17. But that was not to be.
Instead, it was veteran rider Elena Hight who took gold, employing consistency to find her way to the top of an X Games podium for the first time. In her 13th X Games start, she won her first gold medal to go with three silvers and two bronzes. It is her first medal since 2013. The result left the two-time Olympian in shock.
“I don’t even know what to say,” she said after her win. “I just came out here to land my run and wasn’t even thinking about results, and this is just the icing on the cake.”
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Perhaps it was the unexpected that led to Kim’s unanticipated fall from the podium’s top step. A course hold six riders into the contest when half of the venue’s light went out delayed the first runs of Kim and Arielle Gold, and both seemed affected by the delay as falls led to the two lowest scores of the evening.
Hight was the only rider to complete both of her runs without falling or touching the pipe. She saved the best for last, uncorking an 87.33 to overtake China’s Xuetong Cai, whose first run 85.00 made her the early leader and eventually led to silver. Kim’s second run lacked some of the panache that kept her undefeated since taking gold last year in Aspen, but it still was enough to draw an 81.00 from the judges and earn bronze, marking her fifth X Games medal in as many starts.
The 27-year-old Hight, who made her X Games debut at the age of 14, competed at the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Winter Games and hopes to return one year from now in PyeongChang, South Korea.