White reclaims his crown
The elder statesman of snowboarding still reigns supreme. Shaun White has done it once more.
The snowboarding megastar has claimed his third Olympic gold medal by winning the halfpipe competition at PyeongChang 2018. But only after dramatic battle with the pretenders to his throne that came right down to the final run.
Down to the last
As the last competitor in the final run of the men’s halfpipe, Shaun White needed a near flawless ride to pull off the mission he’d been planning in the four years since his disappointing performance in Sochi.
After leading the pack with a score of 94.25 in his first run, White fell behind Japanese 19-year-old Ayumu Hirano, who executed back-to-back 1440s in his second run to climb atop the leaderboard with a 95.25.
White was guaranteed a silver no matter what happened, but the two-time Olympic gold medalist knew he would have to be spectacular in order to earn a third. And he was.
White not only matched Hirano’s back-to-back 1440s, but added a few more tricks before sticking a perfect landing, earning a score of 97.75. Australia’s Scotty James had a nice first run of 92.00, but couldn’t eclipse it on his final two runs, leaving him with a respectable bronze finish.
Fuelled by Sochi
By White’s lofty standards, Sochi 2014 was a major disappointment, as the double gold medallist failed to medal in the halfpipe and slopestyle competitions. White, who still could have walked away from the sport after Russia as the greatest halfpipe snowboarder ever, instead decided to narrow his focus.
He opted to compete in only the halfpipe in PyeongChang, completely motivated to erase the memory of the prior Games. “I’ve never gotten over finishing fourth in Sochi,” he said in February 2017. “Not performing the way I wanted made me refocus and recalibrate.”
Pain along the way
Shaun White’s return to the podium wasn’t without suffering some serious pain. His training took a detour in mid-October after a crash in New Zealand that resulted in 62 stitches and a lung contusion. The accident occurred when White was attempting a double flip 1440 and clipped the top of the halfpipe on the way back down.
“The wall itself is about 22 feet, so I flew all the way down,” he told NBC Sports. “I’ve fallen that way a million times. It’s kind of a perfect situation where I hit right on my lip and split my lip open…”
The perils of the sport were certainly on display Wednesday, as Japan’s Yuko Totsuka was taken off the halfpipe on a stretcher after a nasty crash during his second run. A Japanese team spokesman said later that Totsuka injured his hip but did not have any major head or neck injuries.
White’s victory came amidst reports of a sexual harassment lawsuit against him resurfacing this week. According to a ‘USA Today’ report, White and Lena Zawaideh, a former drummer in his rock pand, settled a suit in May 2017.
She claims the snowboarder “repeatedly sexually harassed her and forced his authoritarian management style on her for over seven years.” White denies the allegations.
So what’s next for White?
He’s already the oldest men’s halfpipe competitor in Olympic history at age 31 and it’s not like White has ever struggled to find an array of other interests both in and out of sports.
White’s suggested in the past that he might want to stick around the sport long enough to participate in the Winter Games in Beijing in 2022, although that certainly is far enough away for him to have plenty of time to consider the decision.