Ever since snowboard halfpipe was introduced to the Winter Olympic Games in 1998, team U.S.A. has always won a medal in the event -- that is, until the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Shaun White -- perhaps the most favored snowboarder on the entire Olympic roster -- failed to win his third consecutive Olympic gold medal in the halfpipe. In fact, he didn’t even get a chance to stand on the podium.
Before White competed in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, he’d already competed in the 2006 and 2010 Games and won gold in halfpipe at both. He was scheduled to compete in the first ever snowboard slopestyle competition at the Olympics as well, but he dropped out at the last minute because of safety issues with the design of the slopestyle course. White didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize his chance of winning gold in halfpipe. His caution, though, was in vain.
Iouri Podladtchikov (known by his fans as I-Pod) took the gold medal by performing his signature yolo flip. Podladtchikov first stomped the trick in a competition in Europe in the 2012-2013 season, and White had been trying feverishly since then to replicate it and perform it better than its inventor could.
White felt confident going into the competition after successfully landing the yolo flip twice during his qualifying runs, but his first run in the finals wasn’t up to his usual standard. His first attempt to do the yolo flip resulted in him skidding down the pipe wall, and an attempt at a double cork further down the pipe led to a hard smack on the lip that shocked viewers across the globe and an iconic photograph where White’s board can be seen bent nearly 90 degrees when he landed with one foot above the lip of the pipe and one foot below.
After that, White had only one more chance to succeed.
Podladtchikov’s final run was one for the record books. He followed a huge method on his first hit and a crippler on his second hit with a double mctwist 1260, a frontside double cork 1080 and finally, his signature yolo flip -- which is a cab double cork 1440.
This is what I-Pod had to say about his epic run in an interview with Transworld Snowboarding: “I knew if I wanted to go for it I had to pull out all my tricks. It wasn’t working for me the way I had planned. The plan ended up rolling into this, ‘let’s do it all.’ I was actually having fun going for everything because I usually end up like ‘Well, if I want to land the yolo I’m not going to go for the back double. And here it was like, ‘I landed the back double, you’re not going to fall on your yolo flip. It’s all there for you.”
White’s final attempt at gold was closer than his first run, but he just couldn’t close in on I-Pod’s 94.75 score. White’s first two hits in the pipe were huge, but the imperfect landing of his Yolo flip led to a lack of speed that lasted through the remainder of the run. When White’s landing on his last double cork was less than perfect, spectators knew his reign was over.
Shaun White finished with a 90.25 in fourth place Japanese silver and bronze medalists Ayumu Hirano with a 93.50 and Taku Hiraoka with 92.25. It was the first time in Olympic snowboarding halfpipe history that an American was not on the podium.
Afterwards, White told Transworld Snowboarding, “To be remembered in the sport, I don’t think tonight really makes or breaks my career. I’ve been snowboarding for so long, I love it, it’s given me so much. I’m happy to take this for what it is and move on and continue to ride. I’d always like to be remembered as more than just a snowboarder. I mean, I have so much more going on in my life and this is one big part of who I am but I don’t think it’s all of who I am.”