MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. — Shaun White was flat on the ground in a daze, with a couple of medics hovering over him to assess the damage.
“I haven’t taken a hit like that in a long time,” he said.
A few hours after that frightening scene played out, White earned his spot in the Olympics — winner of Thursday’s second slopestyle qualifying event despite a nasty, face-first fall in the first contest that almost caused him to scrub the whole day.
“I went down and got some food and some medicine and came back and just knew that was all I had in me,” White said.
As is usually the case, it was enough.
White strung together three consecutive dazzling jumps to score a 95.2, then sat out his second run but got the win when none of the other 12 competitors could do better.
The victory made White the top American in two of the four qualifiers and guaranteed a spot on the U.S. Olympic team that, though seemingly preordained, has come with its fair share of injuries and angst.
The two-time Olympic halfpipe champion is expected to ride today in the halfpipe and try to secure his spot there.
Slopestyle is making its debut in the Olympics this year, which has created a jam-packed schedule for White, who hopes to win gold in both. There’s another slopestyle qualifier Saturday, though it’s hard to imagine he’ll compete in that.
“You crash, and then the next morning is when you really feel it,” he said. “I have a date with a tub full of ice right now. I’m so thankful to make that run and to be on top of the podium and heading to Sochi. I’m beside myself. It went from one side of the coin all the way to the other from this morning with that crash to, now, winning.”
White opened his slopestyle quest on a sunny day in Mammoth with a dramatic headplant fall as he attempted a double cork 1080 — three twists wrapped inside two flips.
But White, who has won six consecutive superpipe titles at the Winter X Games in Aspen, rallied later Thursday afternoon to punch his Olympic ticket.
On the women’s side, Jamie Anderson, of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., won both contests to secure her trip in Sochi — a nice rebound after a seventh-place finish in Copper Mountain three weeks ago.
“It definitely brings some peace knowing that I’ve locked in my spot,” Anderson said. “I still definitely want to do well at the next events, but this was the one I was pretty nervous for, and really just wanted to put down a run and go from there.”
Ryan Stassel won Thursday morning’s event and is now in the mix with Sage Kotsenburg, Chas Guldemond and a handful of others for the final two men’s slopestyle spots, which will be decided Saturday. Kotsenburg finished second in both contests and has the inside track on one of the spots.
Many of the competitors are expected to participate in the Winter X Games in Aspen, starting next week. The first elimination rounds of the men’s ski superpipe will be held Wednesday evening at Buttermilk.
The Winter X Games will continue Jan. 24-26.
White has a streak of six consecutive titles in the Winter X Games superpipe competition.
That event will begin next Wednesday with the men’s superpipe finals scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 25, the closing day of the 2014 Winter X Games in Aspen.