Danny Davis faces the Olympic halfpipe with 'no expectations'

Danny Davis triumphed at the Winter X Games two weeks ago with lots of stylish tricks — fancy grabs, tough spins — but skipped the gymnastics-like moves that Shaun White will try.

Michael Ciaglo/The Gazette/AP
Danny Davis makes a 37.66 run before dominating the competition and winning gold with a 95.00 his second run during the Men's Snowboard SuperPipe finals at the 18th edition of the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., Jan. 26, 2014.

He's the man with the best chance of taking down Shaun White at the Olympics.

No matter. Danny Davis says he'll drop into the halfpipe Tuesday with "no expectations."

"I've had a great season so far. I've had a blast. Like I've said, this is just another halfpipe contest for me," Davis says.

Not that he doesn't value the importance of the Olympics, or the heartache they can cause.

Davis all but punched his ticket to Vancouver four years ago when he shockingly beat White in an Olympic qualifier in California. Not long after that, he broke his pelvis in an alcohol-infused ride on an all-terrain vehicle.

That injury scrubbed him out of the Olympics. A broken femur two years later — when he bashed into a pole while trying to ride around a fence, of all things — set him back again.

Asked in an interview last December whether he's trying to care of unfinished business or make a comeback, he didn't hesitate.

"It's a comeback," he said. "It's all about being a better snowboarder and being good again. Unfinished business is like I had it set in my head that I was going to the Olympics. But going to the Olympics is a tough, ridiculous thing in the States."

True to that, Davis looked like he wouldn't make the trip to Sochi. He finished seventh and 14th in the first two qualifiers and simply wasn't performing at the level he's capable.

After a break and some more practice, he flipped the script.

He got one victory in a qualifier White didn't take part in, then finished second to him two days later.

His victory at the Winter X Games two weeks ago was a defining moment. He won with lots of stylish tricks — fancy grabs, tough spins — but bypassed some of the most difficult gymnastics-like moves that White will try.

It's the way Davis wants to approach these Olympics, regardless of whether he wins or not.

"The Olympics, luckily, for our kind of sport, doesn't define us as athletes," Davis said. "There's much bigger things for us in our futures."

A look at the five riders who could take the gold if White slips up:

DAVIS: At Winter X, his backside 360 and switch method grab had the snowboarding purists — and the judges — swooning. If he can pull them off here as nicely as he did there, he'll receive a high mark.

I-POD: Full name: Iouri Podladtchikov. Born in Russia but competing now for Switzerland, he invented the toughest trick going in the game: The four-twisting "Yolo." I-Pod landed it at the Europe Winter X Games last winter and White immediately went to work to match it. White has landed it twice in the lead-up to the Olympics. At the Winter X-Games, I-Pod fell all three times he tried it.

AYUMU HIRANO: The 15-year-old from Japan exploded onto the scene when he landed back-to-back double cork 1080s and finished second to White at the 2013 X Games. He's one of the highest jumpers in the business, though he hasn't been seen much lately. He finished sixth at a Dew Tour event in December and pulled out of the X Games with a foot injury.

GREG BRETZ: Somebody did beat White on a halfpipe this season. It was Bretz, the 23-year-old from Anaheim, Calif. White was riding on a freshly injured ankle that day.

SCOTTY JAMES: He has grown nearly a foot since 2010, when he made his Olympic debut at 15. Took a big tumble on the slopestyle course, but halfpipe is his stronger event. He finished fourth at the X Games last month.

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