Sochi 2014: Snowboard review – Fallen White opens door for laid-back dudes

Sochi 2014: Shaun White arrived in Russia expected to win two gold medals but went away empty-handed, opening up the sport after his dominant years

King no more: Shaun White Photo: Time/YouTube

For a sport which evolves as rapidly as snowboarding, the four years between Olympics are almost an eternity.

New tricks are invented and perfected as riders the world over strive to push themselves to more extreme levels.

Shaun White, love him – as his sponsors do, or loathe him – like most other snowboarders, has long been the figurehead of snowboarding.

Since turning professional aged just 13, the ‘Flying Tomato’ has dedicated himself to breaking boundaries and winning competitions, to the detriment of his relationships with his contemporaries.

It just motivates me. He (White) made me go out there and try new tricks and all this

Halfpipe champion Iouri Podladtchikov

Not content with mastering one sport, White claimed the skateboard vert title at the 2007 Summer X Games, making him the first athlete ever to win Summer and Winter X Games titles.

White was once again the star attraction for the American media at Sochi – gunning for his third consecutive gold in the halfpipe and odds on to do so.

The first sign that all was not right in his mind was his withdrawal from slopestyle, the new event introduced to this year’s Games.

White claimed the course was “intimidating” and couldn’t risk injuring himself ahead of his halfpipe title defence.

A pair of Canadian rivals, Sebastien Toutant and Max Parrot, mocked the American star for thinking so strategically, tweeting that he backed out of slopestyle because he didn’t have a chance to medal.

This is how other snowboarders view White: he cares more about winning than about the pure joy of cavorting in the snow.

CANDY AND CHIPS

The slopestyle gold medal went to White’s compatriot Sage Kotsenburg, a 20-year-old with a polar opposite approach to White’s win-at-all-costs attitude.

Kotsenburg was so laid back about the Olympics that the night before the slopestyle final he reportedly fell asleep eating “a bunch of candy and some chips” while watching the movie Fight Club on television.

Torstein Horgmo of Norway would have expected to claim a podium place had a broken collarbone sustained in training not ruled him out of competing.

Such are the hazards of an event which sees riders reach heights equivalent to a three-story town house when they launch themselves off the Rhosa Khutor Extreme park’s monster ‘kickers’.

Another Norwegian, Stale Sandbech was the beneficiary of his countryman’s injury as he recovered from a fall in his first run to take the silver medal with a score of 91.75 in his second.

Jamie Anderson then made it double gold for Team USA in the slopestyle as she won the ladies’ event by landing two 720s in her second run which put her in the lead by almost three points with two riders to go.

She was guaranteed a medal but did not clinch gold until both remaining riders fell on their final runs.

As the halfpipe got underway, the construction quality of the pipe was being called into question as it was reportedly significantly bumpy where it was supposed to be flat.

White fell on his first run meaning it was all or nothing on his second attempt.

However he failed to replicate his usual array of Double McTwist 1260s and Triple Cork 1620s with his renowned amplitude and was placed fourth.

White was dethroned a King of the halfpipe by Iouri Podladtchikov, or “IPod” as he is often called, creator of the “Yolo” trick, which is visual scramble of two flips and four rotations.

Speaking of White’s success, “IPod” said: “It just motivates me. He made me go out there and try new tricks and all this.”

INTO THE WILD

American Kaitlyn Farrington took gold in the ladies event by the smallest margin possible, 0.25 of a point, from Australia’s poster girl Torah Bright.

I told everybody in the Russian snowboard federation: If you guys take me, you’ll never regret it

Vic Wild

American-born snowboarder Vic Wild celebrated gold medals in the new parallel slalom event and the giant parallel slalom. However he was not racing for the red, white and blue of Team USA but for that of the home nation Russia.

Wild took the decision to defect after deciding that parallel slalom snowboarding wasn’t a high enough priority for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

“I told everybody in the Russian snowboard federation: If you guys take me, you’ll never regret it,” said Wild.

The 26-year-old from Washington obtained Russian citizenship by marrying his Russian snowboarder girlfriend Alena Zavarzina, who won bronze in the giant slalom just 10 minutes before her husband won his first gold.

The ladies final of the parallel slalom was one of the most dramatic and closest finishes of all the alpine events.

Austria’s Julia Dujmovits trailed Germany’s Anke Karstens by 0.72 seconds at the start of their final run and fell further behind after making a mistake but came storming back to claim the win by just 0.12 seconds.

Frenchman Pierre Vaultier won a delayed, dramatic and rain-soaked snowboard cross final, an even more impressive achievement given he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in December.

Snowboarding’s future is bright. With White’s adversaries sensing he may be losing his aura of invincibility, a power-vacuum could develop at snowboarding’s peak.

White’s pride, however, will be hurting badly after his failure at Sochi 2014. Losing is not something he repeats.

Yet it’s clear the king has been knocked down. No one fears him now, everyone is eager for the new day in snowboarding which began when he failed to make it three in a row.

Yet the biggest motivation of all is the fear of being usurped at the only thing you’re good at, and as his adversaries will discover, a wounded Shaun White will more than likely return as a winning Shaun White.

Samsung are a proud partner of Team GB and are supporting the Samsung Galaxy Team. To meet the team, see exclusive content and win amazing prizes, including once-in-a-lifetime winter sport training sessions with the Samsung Galaxy Team athletes, visit: www.samsung.com/uk/sochi2014

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