Shaun White fails to medal, finishes fourth in men's halfpipe
Shaun White, the two-time defending halfpipe champion, finished fourth on Tuesday as Swiss rider Iouri Podladtchikov took home the gold.
So much for history. Shaun White's 90.25 wasn't nearly good enough for the two-time defending halfpipe champion to medal as he lost out to Swiss rider Iouri Podladtchikov, who nailed his second run with a score of 94.75.
White, who finished fourth, was attempting to become the first American male to win three-straight Olympic golds in the same event, but struggled on his first qualifying run and had difficulty finding his rhythm on the second. It's also possible that the daunting pressure of going last may have gotten to him.
"I am disappointed," White told Reuters. "I hate the fact that I nailed it in practice, but it happens. It's hard to be consistent."
The Japanese swept the silver and bronze medals as 15-year-old Ayumu Hirano nailed a 93.5 on his second attempt while his compatriot Taku Hiraoka scored a 92.5, leaving White off the podium after winning gold in the halfpipe discipline at Turin in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010.
On White's first run, he finished 11th out of 12 finalists after he lost momentum from a rough landing, finishing with a 35.00. He nearly suffered a significant fall when, trying to salvage his run, he hit the lip of his board on the edge of the halfpipe and the Olympic veteran skidded down the face.
Facing the prospect of missing the podium, White began his second run with another massive method to gain momentum, coupled a few huge tricks together but wasn't able to land them cleanly. He skidded off and immediately found his rival, Podladtchikov (otherwise known as I-Pod) to give him a big, presumably congratulatory hug.
The final marked a massive failure for the Americans, who didn't to earn a medal from an Olympic halfpipe final for the first time ever.
And it wasn't just White. Americans Greg Bretz, who qualified through the semifinal process, and Danny Davis (automatic qualifier) each struggled to find their footing on Sochi's oft-criticized halfpipe. Before Tuesday's qualifiers, snowboarders had been delayed so that course workers could re-freeze the halfpipe to help combat the warmer-than-expected temperatures.
The course, moreso than Davis himself (the X-Games champion), may have been the biggest culprit after a stellar first run was marred as he slipped while transitioning jumps.
White's failure to capture his third-consecutive gold was only magnified after he stunningly chose to drop out of the Olympic slopestyle's inaugural competition last week in order to focus on his marquee discipline.
Podladtchikov, who finished fourth at the Vancouver Games, took the gold by pulling his signature trick, a double-cork 1440, which he has nicknamed the "YOLO Flip". What does the You-Only-Live-Once trick encompass? Only two flips and four spins, all while rotating on three separate axises. It's a trick that White, the long-reigning king of halfpipe snowboard has attempted, but clearly failed to master.
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