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3 flips for Hirano but a 4th win for James at Winter X

Ayumu Hirano landed the triple cork. Scotty James rode away with the win.
The calculus on the halfpipe remained hazy as ever Friday night when James notched his fourth career victory at the Winter X Games even though he didn't attempt snowboarding's most-difficult trick.
The question heading into the Olympics is whether it's even worth it.
Less than five weeks after becoming the first to do it in competition, Hirano again landed a triple-flipping jump on his first trick. But, as was the case the first time, Hirano could not land the next jump. Riders usually need to land at least five to complete a run, and nobody has yet made a triple cork part of a full run in competition.
It left Hirano, the two-time Olympic silver medalist, with a silver medal in Aspen, as well. And James, who took bronze in Pyeongchang four years ago, earned another gold.
“It's hard to put words on this, honestly,” said James, who finished 11th in a star-studded contest in Switzerland last week. “I just wanted to bounce back. Ayumu is an amazing opponent ... and I knew I had to bring my best.”
So far, James' best has included the switchback double cork 1260, a daunting, near-blind trick that involves two head-over-heels flips after riding backward up the wall, then spinning toward the top of the pipe.
He executed it on his first three runs, and the judges placed him ahead of Hirano after the second run. (No scores are given at the X Games, and judges simply rank the riders based on the overall impression of their runs.) Hirano's younger brother, Kaishu, finished third.
After Hirano fell on his final run, James, who was last on the start list, simply went for straight airs on a victory lap. This was James' first contest in America this season, and he has been playing it coy about the triple cork.
The next chance to find out what, exactly, he's been working on in a secret setting in Europe will come Feb. 11 on the halfpipe in the mountains outside Beijing.
Also in the mix there, but absent from Aspen, will be three-time Olympic champion Shaun White and last year's Winter X champion, Yuto Totsuka. Totsuka crashed hard at the last Olympics but has been dominating this sport through most of the last 24 months.


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