BONGPYEONG-MYEON, South Korea– He wanted to go last. Shaun White liked knowing where his 11 competitors were Tuesday before driving into the icy halfpipe and into Olympic infamy.

With the pressure squarely on his shoulders, White, 31, responded by going big.

Very, very big.

The Mammoth-based snowboarder scored a near-perfect final run of 97.75 points to roar past teen rival Ayumu Hirano of Japan, who fell on his final try just before the Pipe King retook his crown.

White won his third Olympic title after finishing fourth in Sochi four years ago when the pressure sabotaged him.

Not this time. Not even competing against 11 others whose average age is 21.9 years old.

Hirano entered the Pyeongchang Games as the presumptive favorite, particularly after White had suffered two serious injuries in the fall — he needed 62 stitches after hitting his face on an edge while practice a 1440 rotation trick that is the most difficult in the sport.

Hirano had back-to-back 1440s in a silver-medal winning second run that led to a dramatic finale by White.

“I’ve watched him since he was 13 years old,” White said of Hirano, now 19. “He was in a tough position like I was as a kid where you have a lot of pressure to be the next big, great thing in the sport. They were saying that to him – that he would be the next Shaun White – as a small kid.

“I’m sitting there like what do you mean? I’m still here.”

Yes, he is. White came to Korea feeling more relaxed and more reflective about what he has done with his career. He joked with reporters and fellow competitors, no longer living on the island he once created.

Some dared to suggest White’s career was past tense because the kids were attempting tricks beyond his capabilities.

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Source:: The Mercury News – Sports


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