The Flying Tomato Lands in First

By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 24, 2007

BALTIMORE, June 23 -- Standing atop the vert ramp's drop-in, Shaun White brought his skateboard to his head and shook himself in disbelief. He had been waiting eagerly to make his third run in the skateboard vert finals, the last of the competition, when the rider before him fell. White's score wouldn't matter -- he already had won.

White's first-run score of 94.25 on Saturday afternoon was all he needed to secure the top spot and leave all other riders playing catch-up at the Dew Action Sports Tour's Panasonic Open at the Camden Yards Sports Complex.

Known as both an Olympic gold medalist in snowboard and a top skateboarder, White, nicknamed "The Flying Tomato," entered the finals as the top seed.

"That was crazy," White, 20, said of his first attempt. "That's a hard score to get and I knew that everybody else was in the upper 80s; nobody was really breaking 90 [points].

"But you don't want to get too excited because right when you think you've got it, it just gets snatched away from you."

One of those trying to steal the lead was skateboarding legend Bob Burnquist. The 30-year-old had two solid runs but knew he needed to step up in his third if he hoped to shake up the podium placements.

The packed bleachers roared with approval as Burnquist threw out an impressive run that included a switch flip to a fakie and three 540s, earning him a score of 91.00, good for second place but not enough to dislodge White.

"The third run, I went all out and really tried to get him out and wound up close," Burnquist said. "It's just a matter of getting started right off the bat. You try not to think about what they're doing but you get excited about it. I love to see Shaun skate so good and all the young guys skate so good, I just feed off that."

White, the second youngest of the 10 riders competing in the final, snagged his third Dew Tour win in skateboard vert. The youngest rider was 16-year-old Alex Perelson, who finished sixth in his first appearance on the tour.

"Those are probably the best runs I've ever done in my life," Perelson said.

Although Burnquist said he enjoys seeing new athletes who keep pushing the sport forward, he's not about to give up competing in the face of a new generation of skateboard vert riders such as White and Perelson.

"They push us. It's not like, 'Oh, they're coming up, let them have it.' It's not going to be that easy," he said. "We're going to go for it like we always do. We have experience, a bag of tricks we get to throw and we get to strategize."

Finishing third was another one of the sport's well-known faces, 33-year-old Andy MacDonald, with a best-run score of 87.50. MacDonald, like Burnquist, was happiest with his final run, an attempt neither would have gotten if the finals hadn't switched back to a best-of-three format after using a best-of-two system in 2006.

"It definitely opens it up a bit, especially in a situation like this," MacDonald said. "The idea is get a good solid run under your belt, then you can step up the difficulty, the amplitude, and I felt like that's what I did. I was tied with Bucky [Lasek] even after my second run and my third run is what broke the tie."

A Baltimore native, Lasek received the largest cheers from the crowd and finished fourth despite being limited by an injured left knee. Lasek was noticeably frustrated with the injury; he mimed shooting himself in the knee after falling in his third run.

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