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Medals table
26 medal events
Nation G S B Tot
Norway 4 3 4 11
Canada 4 3 2 9
Netherlands 3 2 3 8
United States 2 1 4 7
Russia 1 3 3 7
Associated Press
Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchikov, left, celebrates with Shaun White of the US after Podladtchikov won the gold medal in the men’s snowboard halfpipe final Tuesday at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Sochi Olympics

White’s fate: You Only Lose Once

2-time champion can’t land ‘Yolo’ trick, finishes 4th

– Maybe it was all too much. Or maybe just one of those bad nights. That debate will last a long time.

Shaun White stood at the top of the Olympic halfpipe Tuesday night, hunched over, hands resting above his knees. He high-fived his coach, clapped his hands, then jumped in for a ride that would decide if all the calculated choices he had made over a winter full of injuries, distractions and angst would pay off.

One jump, 15 feet above the pipe, was perfect. The second one looked good, too.

Then, the trick they call the “Yolo” – the one a rival invented but White had turned into his own.

His snowboard skittered across the halfpipe on the landing. White finished the run with a flourish and raised his index finger, trying to woo the judges who know, as well as anyone, what he’s done for his sport.

No sale. No medal, either. He finished fourth.

The world’s best-known, most-successful and best-marketed snowboarder lost to a man they call the “I-Pod,” and now, he may never hear the end of it.

“I would definitely say that tonight was just one of those nights,” White said after falling to Iouri Podladtchikov, the 25-year-old Russian-born inventor of the Yolo. “The tricks I learned getting ready for the competition will carry on for a couple years in this sport. It’s a bummer. I had one of those nights.”

The Japanese pair of 15-year-old Ayumu Hirano and 18-year-old Taku Hiraoka won silver and bronze, and the Americans were shut out on the halfpipe for the first time since the sport was introduced to the Olympics in 1998.

Almost unthinkable, especially since White joined the mix and won the first of his two gold medals in 2006.

He wanted to win two this year – one in halfpipe and one in the newly introduced sport of slopestyle – but ended up with none.

The Yolo – You Only Live Once – includes a total of 1,440 degrees of spin. It’s two head-over-heels flips and two 360-degree turns. Four years ago, it was unthinkable, but not anymore.

Well, maybe not so easy on this halfpipe.

It was sloppy, slushy and full of problems all week. Virtually nobody got a decent practice session in.

Thanks to a trip down the mountain from the crew that grooms the Alpine course, conditions improved. One of the supposed flaws of the pipe – too vertical on the sides – helped Podladtchikov keep the speed he needed to do the Yolo.

He landed it, and even though he threw only five tricks, when most riders were trying six, the judges liked what they saw.

As did Podladtchikov, who spiked his snowboard into the ground and threw his goggles into the crowd. He scored a 94.75.

“He’s incredible,” American Danny Davis, the 10th-place finisher. “That run on that halfpipe. Wow.”

White had come to Russia after a wild winter he spent trying to qualify in two events. He hurt his ankle and shoulder on the way, and changed his schedule on the fly and frequently. The biggest switch-up came when he pulled out of the Olympics’ inaugural slopestyle contest the day before qualifiers, saying he didn’t want to risk injury there for his historic quest on the halfpipe.

And so, the stakes were set.

Riders all get two chances, and their best score counts.

On White’s first run, his attempt at the Yolo ended with a fall that left him sliding down the halfpipe on his backside. Further down the pipe, he tried to finish with another of his double-cork tricks. His board slammed and bent on the lip of the pipe, followed by an awkward and painful fall onto his rear. He was in 11th place after one round.

I-Pod’s second run put huge pressure on White.

On the Yolo, he tucked his hands together to generate torque, then waved one like a cowboy riding a bucking bronco. The form looked good during his three seconds in the air. The landing ended his chances, and whatever small chance he had of winning a wrong-colored medal were wiped away when his knees buckled and nearly hit the snow on the final jump.

When the fourth-place score, a 90.25, came up, he broke into a knowing smile. He gave Podladtchikov a big hug. He told him he was happy for him. But the champion had only himself to blame.

“I had a specific run I wanted to land and I didn’t put it down,” White said. “It’s one of the most frustrating things for me. If I land my run and I’m beaten, I’m OK with that. I didn’t get that chance tonight, and it happens.”

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