Monday 21 October 2019

White digs into bag of tricks to fight off young pretenders

Shaun White shows his emotion after receiving the gold medal for the Snowboard Men’s Halfpipe. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images
Shaun White shows his emotion after receiving the gold medal for the Snowboard Men’s Halfpipe. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

Cliona Foley in Pyeongchang

Snowboard legend Shaun White pulled out a move he had never done before to hold off men almost half his age and clinch his third Olympic gold medal in Pyeongchang yesterday.

The San Diego veteran (31) had never before tried back-to-back 1440s (four rotations with three twists) until yesterday's practice session.

But he opened his final run with the move to score 97.75 and snatch gold off Japanese teenager Amymu Hirano, four years after failing to make the podium in Sochi.

Australia's Scotty James, who competed wearing bright red boxing gloves to show his fighting spirit, took bronze.

Growing fears about the rising risk element of the sport - one of yesterday's finalists was stretchered off the course - left White facing probing questions afterwards about its safety.


Only last winter he needed 62 stitches in his face after a horrendous fall during competition.

But he insisted new developments in training aids like air-bags means his sport can progress safely, saying: "It's a risk that we take. Driving to the mountain is probably the most dangerous thing we can do and we do that every single day."

He now hopes to become a dual Olympian by competing in the Summer Olympics in 2020 when skateboarding makes its debut on the programme.

White's victory dominated day five in Pyeongchang where, once again, the weather played havoc with some events.

Continuing high winds have meant that only one alpine skiing event has taken place so far and the ski-jump element of the biathlon had to be delayed yesterday.

For the second time in three days Ireland's Tess Arbez had an event - slalom this time - postponed.

It was highly unusual to see a non-speed event like slalom called off and there was a two-hour hiatus while the judges deliberated over it.

Irish team leader Shane O'Connor, who finished 45th in the slalom in the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, said it was a decision more about fairness than safety.

"It wouldn't have been an even race," O'Connor said.

"Some skiers would have had no issues but others could have been badly buffeted. It is colder here than I expected but I don't think they could have forecast this."

If things don't improve soon the alpine skiing schedule will end up badly congested but the forecast for the next 48 hours is better and the temperature rose to four degrees yesterday.

Arbez had a few practice runs on the course before her race was called off and said the quality of the slope is actually very high: "I really love the snow here. It's really hard and I don't think it will change for the last 10 to 20 girls (in the draw) where I am. I think it will still be really good for everyone."

Elsewhere, Tonga's dual Olympian Pita Taufatofua got 'quote of the day' when asked about his goals for the upcoming 15km cross-country, saying: "First finish before they turn the lights off and, second, don't ski into a tree."

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