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Snowboarding star White claims Olympic halfpipe gold

February 14, 2018 3:49 AM
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Third Winter Olympics gold medal eases sting of Sochi shutout.

PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA—With a towering final ride and a score of 97.75, Shaun White reclaimed snowboarding dominance Wednesday, winning his third Olympic gold medal in halfpipe with flying bravado.

Twenty years into snowboarding’s run as an Olympic sport, nobody’s established themselves a bigger presence than White, the redhead from San Diego who added to the back-to-back halfpipe golds he won in 2006 and 2010.

White took the lead with a 94.25 on his first of three runs — a score that was topped by Japan’s Ayumu Hirano’s 95.25 on the second run, when White crashed. But after both Hirano and Australian contender Scotty James crashed on their third runs, the door was open for White, who delivered an epic performance that left Hirano with his second straight silver and James with bronze.

White long ago became a mainstream celebrity in a niche sport, complete with a department-store kids’ clothing line among a portfolio of lucrative endorsements. He was a millionaire before he turned 20. And now, at 31, he doesn’t just carve turns on ski hill, he owns them — or, at least, in 2016 he reportedly purchased a minority stake in a pair of California mountain resorts at which he spent time as a youngster.

But the mostly pristine arc of White’s competitive domination hasn’t come without its wobbles. Aiming for a gold-medal three-peat at Sochi four years ago, White crashed on his final run and finished fourth.

“At the time I was burning out. It’s hard to admit,” White told reporters in South Korea in the lead-up to the competition. “At the time my heart wasn’t in it . . . It’s like if you’ve ever been in a relationship and someone is like, they love you. I wish I could flip a switch and love you back . . . love snowboarding like I did when I was 7.”

The disappointment of Sochi — where he entered both halfpipe and slopestyle and came home without a medal — proved hard to shake. An October injury — in which he needed 62 stitches to his face and skull after a crash in training — cast doubt on his sharpness.

“Nobody realizes what it’s like to come home and, like, you can’t escape (talk of his failure in Sochi),” he was quoted as saying in the Washington Post a while back. “You’re filling up your car with gas and somebody’s like, ‘Hey man, sorry about what happened.’ Right when you think it’s gone, you’re at the grocery store and the guy’s checking your items, like, ‘Hey man, sorry what happened.’ ”


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