As bummed as I am that alpine skiing got postponed again due to weather, I’m glad I was able to completely take in live coverage of men’s snowboard halfpipe finals Tuesday.
What a show.
I felt like I was watching the 2006 or 2010 Olympic men’s halfpipe finals, only more amplified. Four snowboarders with scores in the 90s and a who-can-one-up the other contest between Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, Australia’s Scotty James and Team USA’s Shaun White, who conveniently dropped into the pipe in that order for each of their three runs. I remember first hearing about Hirano after he became the youngest Winter X Games medalist in 2013 by winning silver in superpipe and he certainly lived up to his billing with Olympic silver in 2014. James I’ve only recently become familiar with, but he is so fun to watch. And of course, White competing at age 31 in his fourth Olympics was reason enough to watch Tuesday’s finals.
My exact thought after Hirano nailed his second run for a 95.25 to move into first place was ‘your move, Shaun White.’ After Hirano and James fell in their third runs, White certainly made his move. His third run was like watching a video game. So fluid, so jaw-dropping and nothing short of what we’d expect from White.
His reaction after seeing his gold medal clinching score of 97.75 was too good—tossing his snowboard, dropping to his knees, wrapping himself in a U.S. flag and finding his family with tears in his eyes. That made me remember the video montage NBC ran following the closing ceremony to Torino 2006. It was such a good games with athletes like Joey Cheek, Shani Davis, White, Sasha Cohen, Seth Westcott, Apolo Anton Ohno to name a few. The montage highlighted various scenes from throughout the Games — from winning medals to heartbreaking moments — set to “Titan’s Spirit,” the theme song from Remember the Titans. These montages are among the few things I miss about NBC when I watch BBC’s Olympic coverage. To this day, that montage gives me chills. If you’ve never seen it, search YouTube for “2006 Torino Olympics Closing Credits.” Toward the end of it, a clip of White is shown where he says, “I told myself I wasn’t gonna get all teary but, seeing the family…’ I can’t imagine what that was like for him to experience that again 12 years later almost to the day in Pyeongchang and to reflect. How fitting that he of all athletes won the 100th Winter Olympics ski or snowboard medal ever for Team USA? How lucky are we to be alive to have witnessed his accomplishments and that of so many other Winter Olympians like Kelly Clark, Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin?
I was relieved to see via Twitter from USA Today reporter Rachel Axon that Japan’s Yuto Totsuka has ‘no big injury’ according to Japan’s press officer after a 35-foot crash in his second run Tuesday.
Men’s halfpipe finals also gave an Idaho athlete another top-10 finish this week thanks to Chase Josey. A Blaine County native, Josey placed sixth with a best run score of 88 two days after Rigby’s Jessika Jenson placed fifth with a best score of 72.26 in women’s slopestyle.