Kazuhiro Kokubo beat the world’s best this evening to claim the halfpipe title at the 28th US Open. The pint-sized Japanese wonder went bigger than anyone else in the competition, stomping a run that was not only super-clean but also technical as hell. Louie ‘Tiny Dancer’ Vito came in second, with Iouri Podlatchikov claiming the third place on the podium.
Despite having featured in the build up to the contest, Shaun White wasn’t on the rider list for the final, leaving the comp wide open. In the early stages it looked like his Olympic team-mates were going to step into the ginger wonder’s shoes with both Louie Vito and Scotty Lago scoring highly in their first run. Louie’s three doubles, all landed cleanly, put him in first place with a 96.17.
However, it quickly became clear that I-Pod and Kazu weren’t going to let this be an all US affair, and they swiftly pushed Lago down the leaderboard with a 96 and a 95.33 respectively. Having posted a respectable score, Kazu then came out all guns blazing on his second run. With his trademark tweaked out style and his huge amplitude, he claimed the top spot with an unreachable 97.17.
Despite Louie getting one more hit than everyone else on his third run (and throwing in no less than four double corks!) he couldn’t go big enough or land clean enough to dislodge Kazu from the top spot – meaning it didn’t matter when both the Japanese rider and I-Pod fell on their final runs. Meanwhile Peetu Piiroinen, who many thought would be a contender, failed to stick any of his runs cleanly. I’m sure he wasn’t too upset though… He was still had his official crowning as TTR champion to look forward to and his 12th place finish, when combined with his performance in the Slopestyle, was enough to win him the overall Burton Global Open Series title and a further $100,000.
Once again, the competition pushed the standard of halfpipe riding to never-seen-before heights, with almost every rider in the field landing runs that would have won any comp going a matter or months ago. The title, which is the oldest and possibly the most prestigious in snowboarding, puts a nice feather in the cap of a rider who many thought deserved to win more this year.