Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

White’s Failure to Medal Leads to Changing of the Guard in the Halfpipe Event

It came without much fanfare. There was a small blurb about it on SportsCenter one morning, but this Winter Olympics, we were privy to the end of a dynasty.

When Shaun White failed to medal at the Sochi Olympics, it was a historic first. It would be naïve to think that the Winter X Games hadn’t had a profound effect on the Winter Olympics, and White was one of the biggest reasons for that.

Eleven years ago when White won his first X Games gold (in the Superpipe), the world was fascinated by the 16-year-old phenom. The ways White flew through the air with his flowing red hair captivated the nation and helped bring the X Games into the national spotlight. When the X Games proved to be a monetary success, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) decided they wanted a share of the cash and added a halfpipe event to the games.

Of course, White went out and subsequently won the inaugural and second-ever gold medals in Turin and Vancouver respectively. This year in Sochi, the decision was made to add a slopestyle snowboarding event, one in which White was again favored. However, combining less than stellar snow conditions, in addition to what many have said was White’s fear of losing, White decided to pull out of the event after a training run crash that left him with a bruised wrist, an injury that would not normally have prevented him from competing.

This left White with only the halfpipe event for a third straight Olympics, and anything less than gold would be a disappointment. When Yuri Podlachikov took home the gold we saw the end of a run that lasted 11 years in the halfpipe. The Flying Tomato firmly planted himself in pop culture, and was primarily responsible for the rise of winter extreme sports and popularity of these events in the Olympics. We may have seen a new dynasty start in Sage Kotsenberg in the slopestyle, but it is clearly too early to tell if he has any staying power. The door is now open, however, for the next generation of great snowboarders to emerge to fill the power vacuum that White has created by apparently starting to slip.

It’s an interesting time in the sport of snowboarding, since no one likes to see a legend fade away. At the same time, however, it opens the door for the public to recognize snowboarding beyond the accomplishments of White. The possibility is also left open that no American will step up to fill the void, and the halfpipe will become as unpredictable as it has ever been. For our generation, we grew up with and idolized Shaun White, that crazy kid who pulled off the moves that we could only do in video games. It will be a sad day when White leaves the spotlight, and Sochi may have been the beginning of his end.

The halfpipe is clearly here to stay in the Olympic games, as it is one of the most exciting and most viewed events of the entire games, but we may never see the Flying Tomato launching himself beyond the realm of what was previously thought possible. Nothing says White is going to retire, but he has medaled in every competition in which he has partaken since 2003 and has gotten gold in all but one halfpipe competition in that time span. One thing is for sure, though: White no longer has every gold medal in Olympic halfpipe history.

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