The king is back: Shaun White earns historic third Olympic Gold
Twelve years after winning his first Olympic title, Shaun White has secured his third Olympic Gold in today's men's halfpipe final of the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games which turned out to the expected epic and arguably best snowboard show to date which also saw Ayumu Hirano (JPN) and Scotty James (AUS) walk away with Silver and Bronze, respectively.
In fact, there aren't enough superlatives to describe this all-time show and all the drama the final field had pulled off.
Twelve riders had qualified for the three run, best one count final and were up to push their riding to the limits and even further showcasing the level and latest progression of men's halfpipe riding in the superpipe of Bokwang Phoenix Park.
With yesterday's intense and exciting qualifiers in mind, the stance were filled with the crowd expecting everyone to raise the bar even more, and fans as well as the judges alike didn't get disappointed at all.
Especially as the top-3 qualifiers, the Holy Trinity of men's halfpipe snowboarding – White, Ayumu and James – picked up where they left off in yesterday's qualification when White came out as top qualifier and therefore earned the right to drop in last.
An advantage he was desperate to get his hands on as he would be able to watch his competitors go first being able to adjust his runs according to the tricks the others were throwing down.
"This is why I won the qualifying. I wanted to be in that pressure situation, having the final say. And I'm standing there and the pressure of the world is on me and I realised, 'I'm having fun doing this again'. It's a really beautiful thing for me after all these years in the sport, the last out there," he said.
After Pat Burgener (SUI), Chase Josey (USA) and Raibu Katayama (JPN) had been the first to set a first mark in run one while Hirano missed to bnring his first one down, it was Scotty James kicking off an insane battle for Gold and therefore answering the question right away if riders would have some more in store compared to the qualifiers.
The two-time and reigning World Champion landed the run he had prepared for this moment starting things off with back-to-back 1260's before setting up for his switch backside 1260 – the most technical single trick in the pipe right now – with a frontside 1080 nose and a switch crippler taipan.
Earning a 92.00 and knowing that he could still improve on his amplitude and execution here and there, there was no time for holding back for White who had watched his Australian rival's run from the top pf the pipe.
White, who was eager to take the Gold and therefore get the redemption for the Sochi loss which has plagued the sport's superstar over the whole past Olympic circle, kicked off his run with a frontside 1440 into a cab 1080 to his signature frontside 540 stale to the tomahawk and a final frontside 1260 which he had given a last sweet refresh over the past couple of weeks.
When the score of 94.25 lit up, it was obvious that round one was just the prelude to even better things to come.
And better things came in the form of Hirano, who won Silver four years ago at the age of 15 (!).
Only minutes after his teammate Yuto Totsuka had an awkward acquaintance of the coping crashing hard at his frontside double 1080 and out of the competition with an injured hip, Hirano shun no danger recollecting his X Games Gold run:
Starting things off with a huge method he flawlessly executed a frontside 1440 to backside 1440 before wrapping his run off with back-to-back 1260's. And also he didn't get as creative as his main rivals for the title grab-wise playing it safe with mute and indy grabs, Hirano took over the lead with a 95.25.
Bumped from a short lead into the Bronze position, it was now James' turn to step up his game. And Australia's flag bearer of the opening ceremony did.
Repeating his first run just by going even bigger and making things look so easy he could have brought down a winning run but bailed on his final attempt, his signature switch backside 1260.
But he wasn't alone, also White felt the pressure knowing that he had to up the ante. And being a contest machine since over a decade the 31-year-old changed his run impressively. Nailing an hardcore combo of frontside 1440 into a cab 1440, the trick which had sent him to hospital during pre-season-training in New Zealand, he went on with his frontside 540 but washed out at the double mctwist 1260 aka tomahawk.
While James and Hirano then tried to clean up their runs and go even bigger but failed to do so, it was up to the final run of the day to decide who would take the Gold – Hirano or White.
And guess what – Hollywood got his happy end.
Shaun White got everything together: frontside 1440 to cab 1440, frontside 540, tomahawk and frontside 1260, all spiced up with amplitude, flow and different grabs. White was able to deliver at the very last moment he had waited for four years earning a 97.25 which not only made him become the first snowboarder to secure a third Olympic Gold but also the athlete who claimed the 100th Olympic title for Team USA.
"I've got to go home and watch the footage to make sure it really happened. It tops everything. It's the best run I've ever done in my career and I did it when I had to do it at the clutch moment in front of all my friends and family - and the world was watching," White explained before adding:
"Happy days, wow. A third Olympic gold medal at my fourth Olympics - I couldn't be prouder."
And while the three best riders did add an historical chapter to the history of the Olympic Winter Games, all nine other athletes were also wowing the crowd with their killer performances.
Ben Ferguson (USA), as creative as always, became the best of the rest with a 90.75 for his indy grab drop in to air to fakie and three switch doubles: cab double 1080, switch double crippler and switch double rodeo.
He therefore edged off Swiss Pat Burgener to fifth who got better and better each run finally stomping a run which included a frontside 1260, a switch backside 1260 and switch double michalchuk being awarded with a 89.75.
Full results can be viewed here.