Gold, Ladley land in fourth | SteamboatToday.com

Gold, Ladley land in fourth

Steamboat Springs snowboarder Matt Ladley flies above the crowd at Saturday's U.S. Open snowboarding half-pipe finals. Ladley ended up fourth in the event.

— Snowboarders Shaun White and Chloe Kim flew higher and spun faster than the field Saturday, making official yet again what's been obvious for a season in one case and a decade in the other: They're the elite of elite snowboarding.

They reminded everyone of that Saturday at the U.S. Open in Vail, White dominating the men's side and Kim the women's. A pair of Steamboat Springs riders, meanwhile, couldn't quite turn good days into great; Matt Ladley and Arielle Gold were both left just off the podium in fourth place.

"I was riding really well here," Gold said. "I just couldn't get it all to come together."

Kim didn’t leave her, or any rider, much room for error. She won the morning's women's championship on the strength of her back-to-back 1080s, a combo she alone has been able to master.

She finished with a commanding score of 89.37.

"Chloe has better fundamentals than any other girl out there," Gold said. "Her timing on all of her spins is perfect, and that's huge, because that helps you land behind the transition and stay safe every time."

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China's Xuetong Cai placed second with a score of 82.99, while Kelly Clark was third at 79.00.

Gold never got the clean run she needed to snag a podium spot. She came the closest on her first try; she drug her hands while landing from her first hit, but still scored at 75.87.

A nasty crash ended her second run, and she struggled again on her final opportunity.

It was the 900 — 2 1/2 spins and her biggest trick — that bedeviled her all day.

Dragging her hand on the trick docked her first-run score.

Things were worse on her second run, when she narrowly avoided serious injury after crashing on the deck while trying to spin through the 900. She fell to the pipe hard, but got up and professed to be OK.

She missed a landing on the 900 on her third run, as well.

The problem was in the takeoff, she said, that split-second a rider has to time his or her jump from the top of the half-pipe wall.

Jump too late, and there's nothing to jump from. Jump too early, and the result could be a nasty crash on the deck, such as Gold endured Saturday.

"It's a lot about being patient enough so you can catch the full transition and the full vert of the half-pipe," she said. "For me, I must have been going a little early on those 9s, because I was flirting with the deck the whole time."

Ladley’s doubles just short

On the men's side, White ensured the excitement would come from his high-flying runs rather than a foe's attempt to challenge him.

He posted a score of 95.62 on each of his first two runs, and when the time came for his third, he had locked up the victory. He did it with the tool that's helped him to so much success in recent seasons: four double corks in his six hits.

The U.S. Open was only his second event of the season, and it was his second win.

Ladely was left just off the podium, his spot there swiped by Ben Ferguson on the event's third run.

Taku Hiraoka earned his spot in the top-3 by landing his first competition 1440. That gave him a score of 88.25 and slotted him in third.

Ferguson, who'd stumbled on his first two runs, entered the final run in ninth place in the 10-rider field. He was clean on his third try, however, and his score of 88.62 vaulted him to second.

"Ben's such a rad dude, though, one of my really good friends," Ladley said. "I always love seeing him do well."

Ladley's best run, his first, scored at 84.25.

The key to that trip was landing clean back-to-back double corks.

Ladley's only done that one other time in his career, at January's X Games, which was a breakthrough event for him as he won the gold medal.

"I'm happy with the riding I did today," he said. "Even though my runs weren't perfect, I was happy about landing those back-to-back doubles and staying on my feet."

Next up for Ladley, Gold and the rest of the world's elite is a trip to China for the World Snowboarding Championships, the season's finale.

It will be the first time in the country for both Ladley and Gold.

"I'm excited," Ladley said. "It's always fun being there with friends, and hopefully, it will be a great last contest for me."

Baden lands 14th

Steamboat Springs rider Nik Baden kept his strong season going with his finish at the U.S. Open in Friday’s slopestyle competition.

The event cancelled the qualification round earlier in the week as bad weather raged, so all riders competed in Friday’s final. There, Baden scored in at 70.40.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

2016 U.S. Open results

Men’s half-pipe

1 Shaun White, 95.62

2 Ben Ferguson, 88.62

3 Taku Hiraoka, 88.25

4 Matt Ladley, 84.25

Women’s half-pipe

1 Chloe Kim, 89.37

2 Xuetong Cai, 82.99

3 Kelly Clark, 79.00

4 Arielle Gold 75.87