Wednesday, April 16, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

‘I-Pod’ has new trick that may close gap on White

Shaun White Snowboarding

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White takes to the air off of a private jump built at Copper Mountain, Colo., Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. After deciding to opt out of the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., earlier this week, White switched his focus to Sochi and had the large slopestyle feature with airbag landing built at Copper Mountain. (AP Photo/Summit Daily News, Sebastian Foltz)

ASPEN, Colo. — The snowboarding trick that might win the Olympics originated not from you-know-who but from a rider known as the “I-Pod.”

His full name is Iouri Podladtchikov (pronounced YOU-ree Pod-LAT-she-kawv). His trick is called the “Yolo Flip.”

It’s a double-cork 1440 — four full twists packed inside of two flips.

That’s a half-twist more than what Shaun White did at the last Olympics, when he won gold for the second straight time. It’s the newest, toughest thing happening on a halfpipe. So extreme, in fact, that when White saw I-Pod land it, he abandoned what he was doing to try to copy it.

Podladtchikov knows he won’t win a gold medal simply for being a trendsetter. But, he says, it’s a good way to roll into the Olympics — a pretty nice opening move in the seemingly impossible mission to unseat White in Sochi.

“Being in a position where I gave Shaun the idea of what comes next? I can’t really find words for how precious that is to me,” said Podladtchikov, whose last Olympic tune-up comes Sunday in a superpipe final at the Winter X Games that White chose to skip in order to rest. “It’s a very huge form of respect by him. That’s what makes the journey and my career more beautiful.”

The 25-year-old Swiss snowboarder has always been considered one of White’s main challengers, but sometimes when the lights have been the brightest, he has not always shined. He finished fourth in Vancouver, his tricks and jumps dwarfed by White’s gold-medal performance.

Still, I-Pod’s latest trick was such a game-changer that his native country, Russia, tried to see if Podladtchikov might consider leaving his adopted nation of Switzerland, where he moved to as a kid, to compete for the host country.

No thanks, he said.

“My snowboarding evolved around places and people that are in Switzerland,” said Podladtchikov said. “It would be a really big change to bring in new people. I didn’t feel that energy.”

Podladtchikov started working on the Yolo about three years ago, but shelved it because all 10 times he tried it into an air bag, he couldn’t land on his feet. Not even close.

“I left it. I let it be,” he said.

Fast-forward a few months: He was going through a practice session at Mammoth Lakes, Calif., when he grabbed the board a different way. Voila, the trick was dialed in.

“The dynamic of the trick got its final shine,” said Podladtchikov, who works with his sponsor, Quiksilver, to design the outerwear he wears in the pipe. “That change of the grab made it happen. I landed on my feet. I was laughing. I thought it wouldn’t be very realistic three years ago. Then, two years later, I’m training again with a different grab and I’m like, ‘Oh, this works.’ I was so excited to try it.”

His plan was to unveil it at Winter X last season. But the stress and the nerves of attempting it made him sick. It was snowing, too, and it was “not the best day to try a next-level trick.”

A few months later at the European X Games in Tignes, France, he finally nailed it. In his exhilaration, he messed up the final jump in the sequence. He finished fourth. Still, he was so elated that he tossed his helmet, snowboard and gloves into the crowd.

White watched replays of the trick and saw, quite clearly, what it could take to win the Olympics. He set aside thoughts of doing a triple cork and started working on the Yolo.

“When I saw it, I was excited. It’s nice when, yeah, I’m out there trying to do something I’ve never done before but this guy is, as well,” said White, who can now perform that trick on both sides of the pipe. “I have such respect for him because he has also carried the same role in the sport by trying new tricks.”

Podladtchikov believes White can be dethroned. After all, White is also competing in slopestyle, taking some of his focus away from the halfpipe. Podladtchikov also thinks he gains an advantage because he knows the Russian venue a little better, since he rode there last year.

“Shaun has been in this game for such a long time. For me to drop in and beat Shaun White is a really big deal,” he said. “You have to be a step ahead, which I was trying to do with this Yolo Flip.”

He chuckled.

“But it didn’t take him long to learn it,” Podladtchikov said.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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