Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gimme a Double McTwist

American snowboard half-piper Shaun White, who won his second consecutive gold medal in Vancouver last night, proved he is currently the king of the sport. No one else could really touch him. White's airs were a good five feet higher than anyone else's, and he executed incredible tricks nearly effortlessly. It's not that often in sports that you see someone so dominating.

I'm still torn on the judged events, though. They can be fun to watch, but some of them (like figure skating) tend in the direction of excessive predetermination: there are a fixed number of tricks, and each skater is expected to execute a certain number of them. So the differences come down to execution and artistry. Execution could be judged pretty objectively, but artistry cannot be. In some cases, the objective elements separate the competitors enough that it's clear who should win anyway (as in Shaun White's case), but all too often the subjective judgments are decisive.

Snowboard half-pipe still seems pretty "free", though. The sport is still innovative. White mentioned in his post-competition interview that the trick nearly everyone who had a shot at a medal was doing (the "double cork") was just developed in the past couple of years. White's latest invention, called the Double McTwist or the Whitesnake, is basically done only by him. But required elements are creeping in: every 'boarder had to do at least one "straight air" where no spins or flips were executed. It would be a shame to see that free-wheeling spirit eroded the way it has been in figure skating.

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