Shaun White has become the first American male to win gold at three Winter Olympics.
White put together an epic final run to capture the halfpipe with a score of 97.75. The 31-year-old White trailed Japan’s Ayumu Hirano going into the last of the three runs in the 12-man final. The Flying Tomato closed with a daring set that included consecutive 1440-degree spins.
Hirano finished second, followed by Scotty James.
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White, who captured gold medals at the 2006 and 2010 Olympics but stunningly finished off the podium in 2014, was in silver position entering the last of three runs after Hirano scored 95.25 with a brilliant second set that included back-to-back 1440s that sent him soaring into the pale gray morning air.
But James washed out on his final run as did Hirano, who missed his chance to turn the screw on the American, setting the stage for a classic denouement.
White matched his younger rival’s consecutive 1440s – a combination he said he had never pulled off cleanly until earlier Wednesday morning – and built from there for a score of 97.75 to secure his third Olympic gold.
After the scores flashed on the board and redemption had been achieved, White tossed his board and dropped to his knees in tears before finding his mother, Cathy, near the finish corral where they embraced in joy.
“I knew I did a great ride and I was proud of that and I could walk away with my head high, but when they announced my score and I’d won, it crippled me,” White said. “Honestly it’s one of the most challenging runs I’ve ever done. I didn’t even link the combination, the 14 to 14 (back-to-back 1440s) until I got here, today, this morning. So, honestly, I’m just so happy with my performance. I’m proud of the other riders for pushing me this whole time.”
White’s three individual gold medals are the most won by any American at the Winter Games except for speed skaters Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden, who have five each. Only he and Blair won theirs across three different Olympics.
“Man, three gold medals,” he said. “My fourth Olympics. Thank you, I’m feeling blessed.”