Swiss snowboarder Iouri Podladtchikov produced one of the biggest upsets of the Sochi 2014 Winter Games so far when he dethroned reigning champion and hot favourite Shaun White to win men's snowboard halfpipe gold.
The USA’s White, who won back-to-back titles at Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010, failed to make the podium, as silver and bronze went to Japanese teenagers Ayumu Hirano and Taku Hiraoka respectively.
Podladtchikov scored a mammoth 94.75 points to seal the victory, while 15-year-old Hirano grabbed second spot with a score of 93.50, and Hiroaka, 18, registered 92.25.
Hirano and Hiraoka became the first ever athletes from Japan, and indeed the Asian continent, to win medals in an Olympic snowboarding competition.
White, who had scored 95.75 in topping the heats, hit the lip of the pipe on his first run and touched down with his backside on his second, finishing fourth with a score of 90.25.
"I’d never have believed that I’d be wearing this gold medal,” said a thrilled Podladtchikov. “I think I’m going to faint!”
Despite warm temperatures which made for challenging conditions in the pipe, Podladtchikov succeeded in producing some of his best moves, notably the “YOLO Flip”, a particularly audacious trick which involves a “cab double cork” combined with a 1440 spin (quadruple spin), a sequence of his own invention which his rivals have since endeavoured to emulate.
White, who relinquished the Olympic crown he had worn for eight years, was philosophical in defeat: “It just wasn’t my day,” he reflected. “I came here to win two gold medals [halfpipe and slopestyle] but it hasn’t worked out. I’m disappointed. I did fine in training but it’s not easy to be consistent.”