White repeats halfpipe gold
February 18, 2010
CYPRESS MOUNTAIN (Feb. 17) – Shaun White (Carlsbad, CA) had already secured his second straight Olympic gold medal, but that didn’t stop him from stomping one last epic run for the fans Wednesday night in the Cypress Mountain halfpipe – including his patented Double McTwist 1260. U.S. teammate Scott Lago (Seabrook, NH) took home the bronze.
"That was the best victory run of my life," White said. "On this world stage, why not deliver something spectacular? I feel like I came all the way to Canada, I talked about this trick so much, (poured) blood sweat and tears to land it, and there it was."
Owner of two golds at just 23 years old, White said he was torn between a conservative run and his full bag of tricks, and changed his mind "probably 20 times" between the wax room and the top of the pipe. His choice was immediately obvious, as he soared to unimaginable heights off the 22-foot halfpipe wall and stuck his toughest tricks on a daring, stylish victory lap
"I can’t even describe it," White said. "It’s one of those things where I can’t even tell you or begin to describe how many times I’ve gone over this run in my mind, gone over this competition in my head, imagined what it would be like I can finally go to sleep now."
White said he missed three straight attempts at a Double McTwist 1260 before the Games and decided he had to leave the pipe to preserve his positive vibrations. Somehow, on Wednesday, he managed to pull the stunt off at half speed and without a moment to spare before the finish.
"It was everything I had dreamed of," White said after his astronomical score of 48.4. "Honestly, the dreams I’ve had matched this."
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Finland’s Peetu Piiroinen won silver with a 45.0 but came up well short of White’s first-round score, a 46.8 after a clean run with two consecutive double corks.
Lago, who did not earn a spot on the Team until his qualification in the final Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix, fell in the finale but was dialed on a bronze-winning first run.
"It means the world," Lago said. "This year’s been the most competitive year in snowboarding ever to go down, and super progressive. Coming into it, we all had our work cut out just in making the U.S. Team.
"It didn’t really feel that tangible to be honest. I knew I could do it, and I was confident in my runs, but it’s like, ‘Olympic medal? Come on, really?’
"But I did it."
All four U.S. team members reached the finals, with Louie Vito (Sandy, UT) placing fifth and Greg Bretz (Mammoth Lakes, CA) falling twice to 12th.
"I’m stoked for Shaun and Scotty," Vito said. "I wish I would have been up there, but it is what it is. I’ll just get ready for the next one. I’m young, and I’ll be ready to go."
The U.S. has won 12 of 21 halfpipe medals in the sport’s four Olympics appearances. White is the third U.S. male to defend an Olympic gold, joining figure skater Dick Button (1948 and 1952) and speed skater Shani Davis (who replicated his long track title Wednesday).
"Riding with Shaun, he’s just an amazing guy," Bretz said. "He’s got cat-like reflexes, always lands on his feet. I’m honored to be on the same team as him."
Despite a number of falls, athletes reported that halfpipe conditions were impeccable following a week’s worth of bad weather, and they were not unappreciative of the effort put in by organizers and course workers.
"The pipe was sick," Vito said. "They did a great job maintaining it. Considering every curveball this grew got, they put together a really good pipe and they had a really good contest because of it."
The U.S. women will try to improve that incredible U.S. Olympic Team record when they take to the pipe for qualifications beginning at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, with a final slated for 4 p.m.
OFFICIAL RESULTS 2010 WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES Cypress Mountain, BC – Feb. 17