(BEIJING) — Legendary snowboarder Shaun White came up short in his bid to win his fourth overall and second straight gold medal in the halfpipe. He settled for fourth place in what he said will be his fifth and final Olympics.
Japan’s Ayumu Hirano won the gold, while Australian Scotty James earned silver and Switzerland’s Jan Scherrer took bronze.
The final results looked like they would be filled with controversy until the last run by Hirano.
Hirano landed a picture-perfect triple cork 1440 in his second run, a trick that no one has ever landed in a clean competition run, as well as two double-cork 1440s and two 1260s — but it was not rewarded by the judges. He scored just a 91.75, placing him second behind James, who was rewarded for his big switch rotations.
However, the Japanese snowboarder came back with the same run in his third and final attempt, and scored a 96.00 to launch him into first place. James finished in second with a 92.50 and Scherrer had a 87.25.
The other Americans in the final, Taylor Gold and Chase Josey, finished fifth and seventh, respectively.
White put down a full run in his first attempt, but was a bit sketchy on one landing. He cleaned it up in his second run to put down an 85.00. But sitting in fourth, just two hits into his final competition run, he clipped the deck and slid into the bottom of the pipe. White got a round of applause from his competitors as he walked to the back with some tears in his eyes.
The 35-year-old White was attempting to become the first Winter Olympian to win four gold medals in the same individual event. He won gold in Torino in 2006, Vancouver in 2010 and Pyeongchang in 2018. He also finished fourth in 2014.
“To be atop a sport like this for this long, I feel so honored to be doing that,” White told “Good Morning America” in January. “And it’s so wild because when I look around, everybody in the area are all people I used to compete with, you know, they’re coaches now.”
White teased that he had been working on new moves to compete with some of the younger athletes in Beijing, including Japan’s Ayumu Hirano and Ruka Hirano, who have both landed triple corks — triple-twisting off-axis rotations one step up from the double corks that have become commonplace for the top snowboarders. But Ayumu Hirano, despite landing the triple cork in two previous competitions, had not been able to win the events due to mistakes on other tricks.
“There’s talks of doing a 16, which is 180 [degrees] past the 1440,” White told “GMA,” referring to quadruple-rotation trick he landed in his 2018 gold medal run. “But it’s gonna be incredible. I don’t want to give anything away, but working on some new moves and I’m hoping that everything really peaks once I get to the competition.”
Even White’s appearance in Beijing was no certainty just weeks ago. He mostly took off from competing on the world stage since Pyeongchang, saving his aging body for one more run at the Olympics. But he tested positive for COVID-19 in December only to narrowly be cleared to compete at the last U.S. Olympic trials qualifier in early January.
He struggled at that event at Mammoth Mountain, however, and pulled out of the final due to the lingering effects of COVID-19. He rebounded in Laax, Switzerland, with a third-place finish in a world cup event on Jan. 15 — his final competition before Beijing. The finish in Laax locked up an automatic qualifying spot, though the U.S. team could have still chosen him as its one discretionary pick.
White did not compete at last month’s X Games, won by New Zealand’s James.
Gold, Josey and Lucas Foster were the other Americans in the men’s halfpipe competition. Foster was the only one making his Olympic debut, and the only one to miss the final.
Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.