Shaun White grabs dramatic late gold in snowboard halfpipe
Shaun White became the first snowboarder ever to claim three Olympic gold medals at Phoenix Snow Park on 14 February. He overtook Japan’s Ayumu Hirano on the very last run of the snowboard halfpipe final at PyeongChang 2018. Two former Winter Youth Olympic Games athletes also impressed the judges.
White won the United States’ fourth snowboarding gold of the Games, with Hirano taking silver, and two-times world champion Scotty James (AUS) winning the bronze medal.
White, who also won gold medals at Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010, moved up from second place right at the finish with a score of 97.75. His run included the double mctwist 1260, which he is credited with inventing.
Hirano, 19, had led the competition thanks to his second-run score of 95.25. But in the end he took home another silver medal to go with the one he collected at Sochi 2014.
James recorded his highest score on his first run, to the soundtrack of Thunderstruck, by his beloved rock band AC/DC.
Ben Ferguson (USA), who won a gold and silver medal at the Innsbruck 2012 Winter YOG, finished fourth, with 90.75 on his final run. Jake Pates (USA), 19, who won two gold medals at the Lillehammer 2016 Winter YOG, finished eighth.
“Oh man, that was awful and amazing at the same time,” said White. “I knew I did a great ride and I was proud of that and I could walk away with my head high. But when they announced my score and I’d won, it crippled me.
“It’s one of the most challenging runs I’ve ever done. I didn’t even link the combination, the 14 to 14 [back-to-back 1440s] until I got here this morning. So I’m just so happy with my performance. I’m proud of the other riders for pushing me this whole time.”
In a change from previous Games, the snowboard halfpipe final included three runs instead of the usual two, giving the 12 competitors an extra chance to reproduce the very high quality seen in qualifying on 13 February.
White’s winning final run was just short of his superb qualifying score of 98.50. But the 31-year-old was delighted, saying he owed it all to his those closest to him.
“I have to thank my team,” he said. “They were always there to support me and reassure me that what we’re doing is on the right track, and they believed in me. That really helped me. They’re all here for me today. They’re beside themselves. I’m still shaking, I don’t know what’s happening. My family have been so supportive of me from the get-go. In the beginning – driving to the mountains, calling in sick to work, getting me to where I needed to be, and we’re here. Man, three gold medals. My fourth Olympics. Thank you, I’m feeling blessed.”