‘I’m still here’: Snow­board le­gend Shaun White tops Olympic qual­i­fy­ing

Global Times - - Pyeongchang2018 - Page Ed­i­tor: wanghuayun@glob­al­times.com.cn

Amer­i­can snow­board­ing su­per­star Shaun White pro­duced a gnarly dis­play of ac­ro­batic skills to top half-pipe qual­i­fy­ing in Pyeongchang and send a chill­ing warn­ing as he chases a third Olympic ti­tle.

The 31-year-old, who swept to gold at the 2006 and 2010 Win­ter Games, lim­bered up with a score of 93.25 points be­fore tear­ing it up on his se­cond run with a 98.50 that brought gasps from the packed crowd.

By far snow­board­ing’s big­gest star, White helped put the hip­ster sport on the map when his long red locks earned him the nick­name “Fly­ing Tomato.”

But af­ter fail­ing to win a medal in Sochi four years ago, White ar­rived in South Korea sport­ing a shorter, slicked­back look – more boy band than grunge rocker.

He is also de­ter­mined to show snow­board­ing’s next gen­er­a­tion that he is no spent force af­ter scor­ing a con­tro­ver­sial per­fect 100 in Colorado last month that sparked ac­cu­sa­tions of fa­voritism to­wards the Amer­i­can.

“Oddly enough I was a lit­tle ner­vous,” White told re­porters af­ter edg­ing Aus­tralia’s Scotty James for the honor of drop­ping in last in Wed­nes­day’s three­run fi­nal.

“There is such a build-up to get to the Olympics, peo­ple for­get you have to qual­ify. I still had to put that run down, but it took the pres­sure off.”

Ja­pan’s Ayumu Hi­rano, who won sil­ver in Sochi and is tipped as an out­side bet to snatch gold in Pyeongchang, posted the third-best score.

“I didn’t want to take any risks in qual­i­fy­ing,” said the 19-year-old.

“All I had in mind was to play it safe and get through.”

Af­ter watch­ing young com­pa­triot Chloe Kim take gold in the women’s half-pipe ear­lier on Tues­day, White was in no mood to set­tle for se­cond best – as his elec­tri­fy­ing se­cond de­scent proved.

Af­ter soak­ing in the ap­plause, he said, “I started see­ing ev­ery­body put­ting to­gether these great runs and I fig­ured I would just step it up.”

All eyes will be on the top three in the fi­nal, while White had some words of ad­vice for Ja­panese shred­der Hi­rano, who won gold at last month’s Win­ter X Games.

“I’ve watched Ayumu since he was 13,” he smiled.

“They were say­ing that he would be the next Shaun White – as a small kid. That’s a lot of pres­sure to live up to.

“But I’m still here!”

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