Like many of us, the expectation of Shaun White winning gold in Sochi was high. Although the 3 time gold Olympic champion bailed out of the slope-style competition early on in the games, his eyes were set on his specialty: Men’s Half-pipe.
During qualifiers, Shaun showed no hesitation as he easily passed by with flying colours scoring a 95.75, compared to the second highest heat score by Taku Hiroaka (Japan) with a mere 92.25. It seemed like a sure thing that Shaun’s mindset was focused and he knew what he needed to accomplish.
Entering the finals, there was much concern about the quality and condition of the half pipe in Sochi. Like most professional (Olympic and X-Game) standard half pipes, they often provide the smoothest ride possible throughout its transitions from lip to lip. This wasn’t the case in Sochi whatsoever. From the get go, many riders and coaches complained about the condition of the half pipe and it clearly showed in the results of individuals scores. Many riders, including Shaun, Danny Davis, Iouri Podladtchikov, Gregory Bretz all showed struggling signs as they either fell during their runs or fought to obtain enough speed to execute the tricks they have been practicing for over 4 years.
One of the American riders, Taylor Gold, had this to say when asked about the condition and safety of the halfpipe itself:
I don’t know if I would say that. Not practicing your tricks at all coming into an event is pretty precarious on its own, let alone in kind of a bumpy halfpipe.”
While Danny Davis straight up called it “garbage” and “It’s the Olympics. It should be flawless” (yahoo sports)
Clearly it was disappointing to see such an amazing event become dimmed down due to weather conditions influencing the course itself but at the same moment we need to take into consideration that every single rider went through the same struggle. Evidently, the one who won gold would prove they could overcome the obstacle and truly deserve the gold medal.
Entering the final, White was clearly the favorite and one to watch. Furthermore, riders like Iouri Podladtchikov (SUI), Ayumu Hirano (JPN) and Taku Hiraoka (JPN) were hot on his heels. The competition and thirst for gold was high, and the pressure on these athletes was intense. Most of the magic occurred in the second heat where Iouri Podladtchikov landed a double cork 1440 (aka the yolo flip, which he is the founder of) and Ayumu Hirano stomping down all his tricks for a flawless run. With probably the greatest pressure anyone could ever face, Shaun White knew he had to give it his all in his last run, especially since he blundered in his first. In the end, it wasn’t enough, maybe the pressure got to him, nerves, or maybe it was the condition of the half pipe, but in the end, Shaun, like every other human being on this planet isn’t perfect and ended up making mistakes that in the end cost him from obtaining a medal whatsoever.
Final Score of Men’s Halfpipe
So the question now is, what’s next for Shaun White? Is he going to attempt to redeem himself in South Korea in 2018 or is he dropping the gloves for good?
Obviously no one can answer that question except White himself. Despite this, knowing the nature of Shaun over the years as an avid snowboard enthusiast myself, I know that this loss is only going to do one thing, and that is to drive and motivate him back to finish off his career with a bang.
Featured Image Source: firsttracksonline