White wins 3rd Gold. Internet erupts. Surprised? Really?

PyeongChang 2018

Olympic news: Shaun White nails 3rd Halfpipe Gold ahead of Hirano and James

Shaun White nailed this morning’s Olympic Halfpipe event, winning his third Gold (and America’s symbolic 100th) with an epic third run which will be long in the memory. He left his best til last, scoring 97.75 against Ayumu Hirano’s 95.25 and Scotty James’ 92.00. He’s 31 years old and it’s unlikely we’ll ever see his like again. He’s built a legacy of domination that is impossible to dispute – and one that will surely be similarly impossible to equal. Snowboarding’s posterboy delivered last night on the biggest stage, under the biggest pressure. These are indisputable facts.

It was a deserved win, no matter what you may read in Facebook comments etc. His run was bigger, better, higher and in more technical order than anyone else’s. What other criteria do we need to pick a winner? Watch the footage yourself and make your own mind up. At the last minute, White pulled tricks out of the bag he’d only been rumoured as being capable of doing. To step up under that pressure, with that run, was the mark of deserved champion.

Hirano was deflated – understandably so as he stood in first place going into round 3, having put down an epic 2nd run. In the end, he’d have to settle for his second Olympic Silver ahead of Scotty James in Bronze. On another day, Hirano’s run would have easily earned Gold. But that day would have been minus one Shaun White on the kind of form he showed last night.

But enough already. Here’s the results (listed runs 1, 2, 3 and final score):

94.25 55.00 97.75 97.75

35.25 95.25 43.25 95.25

Scotty JAMES
92.00 81.75 40.25 92.00

43.00 83.50 90.75 90.75

84.00 51.00 89.75 89.75

87.75 52.25 88.00 88.00

85.75 25.00 87.00 87.00

47.00 82.25 27.00 82.25

31.25 80.50 70.75 80.50

20.00 62.00 56.75 62.00

39.25 7.00 DNS 39.25

4.50 12.75 13.50 13.50


The problem with White

I started writing this last night then realised it was half four in the morning (CET) and figured anyone awake at that time would have likely just watched it too – so why bother writing about something that people had literally just seen. Decision made – leave it til morning when the head would be clearer and the sense of what I’d just watched had sunk in.

Now, 4 hours later, I’m thinking that wasn’t the reason at all. I’m thinking it was pure deflection on my part. Truth is, it’s hard to write about Shaun White at the best of times – never mind when he’s just won top-spot in snowboarding’s most visible competition, in front of a global audience of millions. This is Shaun White – a man that splits communities better than the Berlin Wall ever could. He isn’t just a “Marmite” thing – White inspires or annoys, in equal measure, depending on your particular leaning. As the internet comments today prove, there’s very little fence-sitting when it comes to Shaun White.

So, here’s the simple facts, otherwise I’m going to end up living in this chair, writing and re-writing this ad nauseum:

  • Like him or loathe him, history was made last night. We’ll start with an easy one. History is made every second of every day. It’s gone, it’s past, it’s history. How’s that for a non-committal . . .
  • Shaun White scored a 97.75 in his third and final run beating Hirano’s 95.25 and James’ 92.00.
  • His win seals the US’ complete domination of Freestyle snowboarding at this Olympics.
  • Like him or loathe him, he’s one of the most talented, winningest riders of a generation
  • Again – like him or loathe him – White is a global mega-brand and, for many people, he’s synonymous with the sport. There will be kids the world over that first saw snowboarding – first got interested in snowboarding – and first tried snowboarding – as a direct result of watching Shawn White. Adverts don’t come much better.

Shaun White was under it last night – make no mistake about that. After celebrating his first run like it was a medal-winner in itself, he almost set himself up for a fail. It was a display that pretty much embodied everything that every detractor would say is wrong with White. Yes, he was hyped but to fling your helmet into the crowd by way of victory salute after run 1 of 3? It kind of showed the arrogance and ruthless competitiveness he’s slated for. Many will say it was just because he was pumped to win. But this, in itself, is another key polarising issue with White and the fact the internet is alight today with debates over the validity of his win.

On the one hand, White is focussed, driven to succeed, dedicated, professional, beyond talented and one of the best proponents we have for the sport on the global stage.

On the other, he’s arrogant, ruthless, more interested in winning than anything else, an out-and-out competition rider, in it just for the money and a spoilt-ass rich kid who takes off to his own Bond villain training facilities. I mean who else would have had their own secret training facility built on a private mountain to the exclusion of everyone else? The film, the Crash Reel, did little to promote Shaun White as an all-round nice guy – but there’s been countless other examples over the years. It’s ironic really when you think back to the very early video parts of a little freckle-faced ginger kid riding harder than most adults, to the adulation of his peers, discovered by Tony Hawk when he was just 7. Over the years, he appeared to become a master of his own bad PR – something he seems desperate to change as he gets older.

So here the Yin/Yang debate rolls on with White. The man we saw last night looked truly worried – even humbled at times. He interacted more with the crowd, reaching out for their support in a way we’ve not seen in the past. For the first time in what seems like forever, there would be no victory lap with a best-for-last, rabbit-out-of-the-hat showcase proving what he might have pulled. For once, White had to throw down his very best tricks in the live comp to take the win. This was a guy at the edge of what’s possible in his riding – in fact, at the edge of what’s currently possible in pipe riding right now.

At 31, White is double the age of the talented, relentless, young whippersnappers coming through the ranks these days. 31 is old in most sports – but even more so when that sport involves flinging yourself 5.5m above a 7m chasm. Youngsters take note – it’s a sad truth but the older you get, the more this stuff hurts and the more the mental “what-ifs” enter your brain. You’ll realise this one day – just like the rest of us.

White had already injured himself twice in the lead-up to these Games – once with a serious fall that required 63 stitches to put his face back together. It’s inevitable these things sat in his brain as he lined up to drop in. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe that’s just one facet of what singles out a Champion. Either way, he came into this event with something to prove. In the words of one NBC commentator following qualifying, “White is on a mission.”

The debate will rage for days about his win but for all his detractors, it’s worth remembering a simple truth – Shaun White has done a lot for snowboarding – and he did so again last night. The finals couldn’t have brought more drama if they’d been scripted for a Hollywood blockbuster (don’t rule that out happening sometime in the future). Today we wake to a world awash with talk of snowboarding.

In an age where the sport’s popularity is on the wane (and it is, just look at the figures), this is a very good thing.

Last night again proved if it’s spectacle you want, Shaun White plays a mighty good lead. The Olympic final was an epic rollercoaster with a deserved winner in the end. Like him or loathe him, snowboarding is better for having Shaun White.

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