Shaun White wins Winter Olympics halfpipe gold in Pyeongchang

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Highlights: White wins thrilling halfpipe gold

American Shaun White became the first snowboarder to win three Olympic titles when he sensationally snatched halfpipe gold, denying Japanese teenager Ayumu Hirano with a superb final run.

Hirano, 19, landed back-to-back 1440s in his second run to overtake White with a score of 95.25, but the American replied with an amazing 97.75 to win.

“I was so overwhelmed with happiness,” a tearful White, 31, said.

His victory secured a 100th Winter Olympic gold for the United States.

“I’ve been through so much to get here,” added White, whose country is behind only Norway (121) in terms of total Winter Olympic golds.

“Waiting for my final score was awful and amazing at the same time. I knew I did a great ride and I was proud of that and I could walk away with my head high.”

It was the fourth snowboarding gold medal for the United States in Pyeongchang after successes for Chloe Kim, Red Gerard and Jamie Anderson.

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White claims gold in thrilling halfpipe contest

White, known as ‘Flying Tomato’ because of his red hair, had overcome two heavy crashes in training in the build-up to the Games.

He had 62 stitches in a face wound suffered in a crash in New Zealand in October after injuring his shoulder the previous month.

However, he showed he was back to his best with only the second perfect score of 100 in history in January’s US Grand Prix.

“I actually did the same trick that injured me here in the halfpipe today,” White added.

“Honestly it’s one of the most challenging runs I’ve ever done. I didn’t even link the combination, the back-to-back 1440s until I got here, today, this morning.

“The final run was the best 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.”

Asked whether his record established him as the greatest snowboarder of all time, White replied: “Yeah, you can say that. I wouldn’t disagree.”

Shaun White<!–

White threw his helmet into the crowd in celebration after his first run, but was forced to find more by Hirano

White, who won gold in 2006 and 2010 but finished out of the medals in Sochi, is now aiming to compete in the skateboarding event in the summer Games in Tokyo when the sport makes its debut in 2020.

World champion Australian Scotty James finished in third position with a score of 92.00.

The action had been held up for some time after Japanese rider Yuto Totsuka was taken away on a stretcher following a heavy fall.

Fellow Olympic legends hail White

Michael Johnson tweet<!–

Michael Johnson, a four-time Olympic champion on the track….
Michael Phelps tweet<!–

…and Michael Phelps, a 23-time Olympic champion in the pool, both paid tribute to White

Analysis

BBC Sport’s Olympic broadcaster Nick Hope

Shaun White is the greatest but not the most popular.

His ability is unquestionable, but the American is a highly divisive figure in the sport.

The 31-year-old heralds from an era before halfpipe was in the Olympics and when the X Games was the undisputed crown jewel event.

Back then – pre Turin 2006 – freestylers didn’t consider themselves to be traditional ‘athletes’. The sport was for show, entertainment and, crucially, fun.

White changed that. He was the first to go out into competition and say “I want to win, I want to be the best”.

Others have followed, but he set that path and some in the sport resent his influence and the direction freestyle has taken after its inclusion in the Olympics.

Other gold medals on day five

However, the women’s slalom final, featuring American Mikaela Shiffrin, has been delayed until Friday because of high winds.

The conditions had already led to the postponement of the women’s slopestyle final earlier this week.

Elsewhere

  • Canadian short-track speed skater Kim Boutin has been fielding social media criticism from local fans, convinced that the disqualification of South Korea’s Choi Min-jeong helped Boutin to bronze in the 500m final. An International Olympic Committee spokesperson said that “occasionally unfortunately we do have these issues”.
  • North Korean skaters Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik – performing to a version of the Beatles classic A Day In The Life – beat their own personal best to make Saturday’s free-skate final, but were ushered past the waiting international media by a minder in the aftermath of their performance.
Ryom Tae-Ok (centre) and Kim Ju-Sik,<!–

Ryom Tae-Ok (centre) and Kim Ju-Sik, who finished 15th at the 2017 World Championships, performed to a Jeff Beck rendition of A Day In The Life

Shaun White wins Winter Olympics halfpipe gold in Pyeongchang

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