ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — As much as piling up wins, Danny Davis wants to roll through his snowboarding life doing things his way.
On Sunday at the Winter X Games, he did both.
And now, he’s on that short list of those who could give Shaun White a run when they get to Russia.
Mixing old- school moves with soaring jumps that showed off the guitar painted on the bottom of his board, Davis won his biggest contest yet. He scored a 95 on Sunday to win the last major halfpipe contest before the Olympics.
White skipped the X Games, choosing training over a shot at his seventh straight title in Aspen.
“It’s bittersweet when Shaun’s not here,” Davis said. “He’s the one to beat but forget it. I’ll take it.”
White’s absence made for a wide-open race and Davis won it, edging Louie Vito by two points. Greg Bretz finished third.
Another of White’s challengers, Iouri Podladtchikov, couldn’t land his four-twisting “Yolo” trick cleanly and finished sixth.
Only White and Podladtchikov, known as the “I-Pod,” have been attempting the “Yolo.” Podladtchikov said he’s convinced no one will win Olympic gold without it.
“I love Danny’s riding,” he said. “He’s gotten so much better, I’m so glad he’s come back. He’s so refreshing to watch. I don’t want to be all full of myself, but I think if I would’ve landed (the Yolo), there wouldn’t have been a question.”
Vito’s silver-medal effort was his best career performancein the X Games. His previous highest finish was a third in 2011.
In addition to riding, Vito was the first X Games athlete to serve as a co-host for the the television broadcast for the event.
After Davis’ 95 and Vito’s 93, Greg Bretz was next with an 89.33. Scotty James took fourth (88), Ben Ferguson was fifth (87) and Iouri “I-Pad” Podladtchikov finished sixth (83.33).
Though Davis won without White in the field, he has beaten the world’s best snowboarder before. That was back in 2010 — a victory that all but sewed up his spot at the Vancouver Games.
But he celebrated too hard and too soon. He broke his pelvis in an accident on an all-terrain vehicle and had to stay home. The last four years have been a slow, rugged set of comebacks from multiple injuries.
Davis got better just in time to sneak onto this year’s U.S. Olympic team, and is starting to peak with the Olympic halfpipe contest 17 days away.
“We’re celebrating by locking Danny into his hotel room,” said a good friend of his, Jack Mitrani. “Because Sochi’s right around the corner.”
Lock him away, but there’s no holding back his creative spirit. All week, Davis has been featured in a set of side-splitting reenactments of scenes from “Dumb and Dumber” — hair slicked down, some fake teeth in place so he can do a moderately good rendition of Jim Carrey’s character, Lloyd. “I’m talking about a little place called Aspen,” Davis says in one of the skits, riff- ing off a line from the movie.
His real hair is long and shaggy, his moustache is getting bushy and his style is a mix of 1990’s snowboard flair and 2010’s athletic prowess.
The first two tricks in his winning run simply aren’t seen much anymore — a backside 360-degree jump that leaves him flying blind until he’s practically hitting the bottom of the pipe; and then an old-school and rather difficult backward, straight air jump with a grab of the board in which he tweaks his legs the way they did back in the day.
“That’s snowboarding,” Davis said. “I’m going to keep snow-boarding the way I want to snow-board. Right now, the judges are rewarding me for it and I couldn’t be happier about that.”