White gold has added value

China Daily - - SPORTS -

PYEONGCHANG — The pres­sure was real. So were the tears of joy, re­lief and re­demp­tion.

This is why Shaun White keeps go­ing. This is why the Amer­i­can snow­board­ing su­per­star re­turns to the Olympics again and again, a jour­ney that’s seen him evolve from teenage phenom to global icon.

Stand­ing atop the half­pipe on a gray Wed­nes­day morn­ing at slushy Phoenix Snow Park with his hopes for a third gold down to one fi­nal shot. White never wa­vered.

“I hon­estly knew I had it,” he said. “I knew I had to put it down.”

The stakes left him lit­tle choice. Ris­ing star and heir ap­par­ent Ayumu Hi­rano of Ja­pan had snatched the lead out of White’s hand dur­ing the half­pipe fi­nal, throw­ing a spec­tac­u­lar epic sec­ond run to vault into the lead and put a por­tion of White’s Olympic legacy at risk. Not that it mat­tered. One deep breath, a half­dozen near flaw­less tricks — in­clud­ing back-to-back 1440s, a trick he never landed in com­pe­ti­tion be­fore these fi­nals — and one seem­ingly in­ter­minable wait later, White’s re­turn to the top of his sport was com­plete.

When his score of 97.75 flashed, more than two points clear of Hi­rano and al­most six clear of Aus­tralian bronze medal­ist Scotty James, it all seemed worth it.

White’s vic­tory erased the long road back from dis­ap­point­ment in Sochi four years ago, along with mem­o­ries of his painful re­cov­ery from a crash in New Zealand last fall that re­quired emer­gency surgery.

“He wears the weight of the coun­try on his shoul­ders for this,” said JJ Thomas, White’s long­time coach. “This is our Su­per Bowl — but big­ger be­cause it’s only once every four years.”

White’s stomped third run made him the first Amer­i­can male to win gold at three sep­a­rate Win­ter Olympics. Speed skater Bon­nie Blair earned gold in the 1988, 1992 and 1994 Games.

All four US golds at these Win­ter Games have been won by snow­board­ers.

“What can I say? I won the Olympics,” White said.

“Three gold medals. I was just hop­ing they’d give it to me. I was pretty sure I put it down but it took a lit­tle while. Just try­ing not to make eye con­tact with the judges.”

James, White and Hi­rano have eyed this show­down on the world stage for months and Hi­rano — who edged James in the X Games last month, an event White opted to skip af­ter lock­ing down a spot on the US Olympic team — shrugged when asked if he was con­cerned about the 98.50 White put up on Tues­day to earn the right to go last in the fi­nals.

“I know what he does and he knows what I do,” Ayumu said. Namely, put on a show. White put to­gether a daz­zling first run, throw­ing a sin­gle 1440 early that scored a 94.25 to storm into the lead.

Hi­rano re­sponded im­me­di­ately, un­cork­ing back-to-back 1440s. When the crowd ex­ploded as his 95.25 posted, he sim­ply shrugged his shoul­ders.

Hi­rano missed an op­por­tu­nity to go even higher when he washed out on his fi­nal run. James put to­gether an un­spec­tac­u­lar last set, set­ting the stage for White.

He called the op­por­tu­nity to go last his “good luck spot.” And with good rea­son. He went last dur­ing his gold medal runs in Turin in 2006 and in Van­cou­ver in 2010.

Yet White had the top of the podium locked up dur­ing his last sprint down the pipe on both oc­ca­sions.

“He’s an amaz­ing ath­lete, an amaz­ing rider and he’s achieved a lot of great feats in his ca­reer and to­day he did so again,” James said.

“Yeah, it’s re­ally cool.”


Shaun White of the US cel­e­brates win­ning the half­pipe fi­nals at the Win­ter Olympics on Wed­nes­day.

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