There will one day be an Olympic Winter Games without snowboarder Shaun White, but it won’t be this year.
The two-time men’s halfpipe Olympic gold medalist and three-time Olympian qualified for his fourth trip to the Games on Saturday with a perfect 100.00 on his final run at the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix in Snowmass, Colorado.
White became the first snowboarder ever to score 100 at X Games Aspen in 2012 and now he continues to hold that title. Only Chloe Kim has earned a perfect mark among the women.
Joining White at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 will be Jake Pates and Ben Ferguson, both making their Olympic debuts.
There is one more qualifying event next week at the Mammoth Mountain Grand Prix in California, but the three men’s halfpipe snowboarders who could make the Olympic team objectively have already been determined. One more will be added by discretion.
The 31-year-old White won the grand prix, with Australia’s Scotty James second with a 96.25 and Yuto Totsuka of Japan third a 94.50. Pates was half a point behind in fourth, followed by Ferguson, who scored 85.25.
The win coupled White’s third-place finisher at the first halfpipe Olympic qualifier in December, earned him a return ticket to the Games that made him a household name 12 years ago.
It’s been a trying season so far for White, the sport’s most iconic athlete. He was hospitalized after a crash in September, and White recently released video footage of a horrific crash while training in New Zealand in October. He needed 62 stitches after slamming his face off the lip of the halfpipe.
White bounced back from that scare and finished as the second-best American at the grand prix at Copper Mountain last month.
Once nicknamed “The Flying Tomato” for his flowing red hair, White overcame a congenital heart disorder as a child to become the face of his emerging sport. Known for his ability to generate huge air off the halfpipe walls, White won the Olympic gold medal in halfpipe in 2006 and 2010 and finished fourth in 2014. He also has 23 medals from the Winter X Games, including a run of six halfpipe titles in a row that ended in 2013.
For Pates and Ferguson, it is only fitting they make their first Olympic team together.
Ferguson won halfpipe gold and slopestyle silver at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, in 2012. Four years later, Pates swept the gold medals in both events at the Youth Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.
Ferguson’s career highlights aren’t quite as extensive as some of the other U.S. athletes who were competing for Olympic spots, but the up-and-comer is quickly establishing his bona fides.
In 2016, he won his first Winter X Games medal with a silver in superpipe. But this season Ferguson, 22, has turned it up a notch.
The Bend, Oregon, native finished second at the Copper Mountain grand prix, then finished third at the Dew Tour for the second-highest finish by an American.
The 19-year-old Pates was the surprise winner of the Dew Tour after pulling off an astonishing third run that included a backside double-cork McTwist 1260, a trick he first learned this past summer.
Making his first Olympic team at Snowmass has special meaning for Pates, whose first competition was there at age 7.
Pates began making a name for himself four years ago on the Revolution Tour and has continued to progress ever since. In 2016, he won two golds at the Youth Olympics, but the chance to compete two years later at the real deal seemed a bit out of reach until last month.