American snowboarding legend Shaun White became the first snowboarder to win three Olympic gold medals, pulling off a spectacular final run of the day to grab his third Olympic halfpipe gold medal on Wednesday, claiming America’s 100th Winter Games title in the process.
At 31-years-old, White is the grandpa of the group, and held his nerve at the last to score a brilliant 97.75 points and snatch the title from Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, who was leading on 95.25, with Australia’s Scotty James third on 92.00.
It was particularly satisfying for White, known as “Flying Tomato” because of his red hair, who won gold in 2006 and 2010 and helped put the hipster sport on the map.
White said it was terrifying waiting for the final score from the judges.
“Oh man, that was awful and amazing at the same time. 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,” he said.
“I was so overwhelmed with happiness, I’ve been through so much to get here. I had this crazy injury in New Zealand (in October) where I busted my face open.
“I actually did the same trick that injured me here in the halfpipe today. So there were a lot of obstacles to overcome and now it’s all worth it. I’m still shaking.”
Japan’s Hirano had to settle for a second silver in a row and James, a two-time world champion, saw his victory hopes dashed as he fell on his final effort.
Team USA are threatening to clean up in snowboarding in South Korea, winning all four competitions so far.
The 17-year-olds Chloe Kim and Red Gerard, and fellow American Jamie Anderson, have all won in Pyeongchang, where competitors have struggled with blustery winds.
As for White, his watching family were “beside themselves”, he said.
“I’m still shaking, I don’t know what’s happening.
“Man, three gold medals. My fourth Olympics. Thank you, I’m feeling blessed.”