Everybody knows the amazing feats of American snowboarding superstar and pioneer Shaun White on the Olympic stage. Two gold medals in three Olympics, and throw in dominance at the X Games with 23 medals, plus a slew of innovations in tricks all cement his large legacy.
But White came into the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 not looking to live off his epic legend, but to lay down new chapters and, possibly, another gold medal.
White served notice Monday, at the age of 31, that he is still the one to beat in the men’s half-pipe competition. He aced his qualification runs at Phoenix Snow Park, posting a top score of 98.50 to lead qualifying for Wednesday’s morning final (which can be seen Tuesday night in the U.S.).
Australian Scotty James was second (96.75) and Japan’s Ayumu Hirano third (95.25).
Led by White, Americans took four of the top eight spots in the 12-man final. Ben Ferguson hit 91.00 for fourth, while Chase Josey (83.54) was seventh and Jake Pates (82.25) was eighth to round out Team USA’s strong rides into the final.
Qualifiers are an art form: do enough in terms of tricks and air to get the points to move on, but don’t show all of your best stuff in the opening rounds.
White’s opening run, a savvy mix of veteran skill and calm that earned a 93.25, showed his riding is as potent as ever. It also allowed him to know he would make it to the final, and his second run would not be as stressful.
“I was stoked to put that run down,” White told NBCOlympics.com. “That took the pressure and the edge off and then I started seeing everyone putting in these great runs in. I figured I would send it on that last one.”
White second run had bigger air, and landed the biggest score of the day.
Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes regularly for The New York Times and other outlets about sports. She has written for TeamUSA.org since 2009 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.