Shaun White
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Shaun White wins Olympic gold; 100th overall for Team USA

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Shaun White has reclaimed his Olympic halfpipe title and won the United States’ 100th all-time gold medal at the Winter Olympics.

And he did it in dramatic fashion, landing back-to-back 1440s as part of a final run that knocked Japan’s Ayumu Hirano out of the top spot.

With the win, White is now the first snowboarder to ever become a three-time Olympic champion. Twelve years after winning his first gold medal at the 2006 Torino Games, he is also the first American man to win the same individual event at three different Winter Olympics.

Much has been made of White’s quest for a third gold medal ever since a disappointing result at the last Olympics, where he finished fourth and lost his Olympic title to Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchikov.

Podladtchikov was unable to compete in PyeongChang due to a recent injury, but there were two other riders considered to be White’s biggest challengers at these Olympics: Japan’s Ayumu Hirano and Australia’s Scotty James.

VIDEO: Watch Shaun White’s gold-medal run

White, Hirano and James have all stepped up their riding over the course of this season with progressive new runs. In Tuesday’s qualifying round, all three put down heavy runs in an attempt to outdo each other, but they saved their biggest tricks for the final.

James came out on his first run and grabbed the lead after landing a technical run that included back-to-back 1260s up top and a switch backside 1260 — an extremely challenging trick that no other rider has ever done — at the bottom.

But James’ score was quickly eclipsed by White, who was the next rider to drop. White landed a sequence of big tricks but still held back his biggest combination. He was so elated with that run that he unstrapped his helmet and whipped it into the crowd as he rode the corral.

White remained at the top of the leaderboard until Hirano took his second run. That’s where the 19-year-old nailed back-to-back 1440s, a difficult combination of tricks that he used to win X Games just a few weeks ago.

That forced White to up the ante. Up to that point, Hirano had been the only rider to ever land back-to-back 14s in a halfpipe competition. But White told media last week that he had been working on those tricks and planned to try that sequence in PyeongChang.

VIDEO: White can’t hold back the tears after winning gold

The back-to-back 1440s consist of two tricks: first a frontside double cork 1440 on one wall of the halfpipe, followed by the switch version of that trick (called a cab double cork 1440) on the other wall.

If the term “cab double cork 1440” sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it was the big trick (the one often referred to as a “YOLO flip”) that Podladtchikov used to help him win gold four years ago in Sochi.

It was also the trick that White struggled to land clearnly, something that cost him an Olympic medal that year.

In order to win gold this year, White would need to land that trick, plus an additional 1440 right before it.

The first attempt didn’t go so well. White did the back-to-back 1440s in his second run — the first time he had ever done so in a competition — but didn’t land the second one cleanly and lost speed. He later fell on his signature trick, the double McTwist 1260.

That created a pressure situation for White on his third run. The final rider to drop, he was already assured of at least a silver medal, but he needed to land a full run, including the back-to-back 1440s, in order to have a shot at overtaking Hirano.

MORE: Watch Shaun White’s first halfpipe run  |  Second run

He landed the frontside double cork 1440 on his first hit, then succesfully put down the cab double cork 1440 to complete the combo. From there he finished out his run with a frontside 540, the double McTwist 1260 and a frontside double cork 1260. And all throughout the run, he showcased the signature amplitude that has made his halfpipe runs a must-see attraction throughout his whole career.

The score from the judges was a 97.75, enough to knock Hirano out of the top spot. And with that, White officially reclaimed his title and avenged the memories of Sochi that have haunted for the past four years.

“Honestly it’s one of the most challenging runs I’ve ever done,” White said, “I didn’t even link the combination, the 14 to 14, until I got here, today, this morning. So, honestly, I’m just so happy with my performance. I’m proud of the other riders for pushing me this whole time.”

Over the last four years, White has found himself pushed by competitors like Hirano and James. He busted his face in New Zealand last year while attempting one of those 1440s, leaving an injury that required 62 stitches. He has said that there were times when he questioned whether it was worth it to continue.

Perhaps that’s why White broke down after seeing his score, the 97.75, come in after his final run.

“Oh man, that was awful and amazing at the same time,” he said. “I knew I did a great ride and I was proud of that and I could walk away with my head high, but when they announced my score and I’d won, it crippled me.”

The U.S. has now won four gold medals at the 2018 Winter Olympics, and all four have come in snowboarding. Red Gerard and Jamie Anderson won the men’s and women’s slopestyle contests, and Chloe Kim won the women’s halfpipe event.

How Arianna Fontana quietly skated into short track history

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Arianna Fontana is silently one of the greatest short track skaters in Olympic history.

Her numbers at the Games speak for themselves; one gold, two silver, and five bronze. Those eight total medals make her the most decorated female short track skater by two medals, and tie her with legends Apolo Ohno and Viktor Ahn for most Olympic medals ever won by a short track skater.

But it is her numbers outside the Olympic stage that really call attention to her Olympic success. She is a 14-time world medalist, which is no small feat, but her podium appearances are spread over a 12-year competitive career. Someone like Elise Christie, for example, has won 12 world championships medals in just five years. And also unlike Christie, Fontana has never won an overall title.

But Christie struggled on the sport’s biggest stage in both Sochi and PyeongChang, and has yet to win her first Olympic medal. Fontana, on the other hand, has become such a consistent podium presence over the last two Games that she almost makes it look easy.

Before retiring from competition, Ohno won 21 world medals, eight of them gold. Ahn, still competing but not one of the athletes invited to competed at the PyeongChang Olympics as an Olympic Athlete from Russia, has to date has won 35 world medals, 20 of which were gold.

Fontana does not come from a short track power like South Korea or China, perhaps another reason why she is not more notorious.

Most of her medals are bronze, which could be used as a strike against her, but just ask Lindsey Vonn how hard she worked to get hers this year.

Fontana’s first medal came at the 2006 Torino Olympics, when she helped the Italian women to bronze in the 3000m relay at just 15 years old. Fontana earned her first individual medal, a bronze in the 500m, four years later in Vancouver.

But in Sochi, she exploded, making the podium in three out of four events: the 500m, where she won silver, and the 1500m and 3000m relay, where she picked up two more bronzes.

“I thought I was going to win a gold medal in Sochi but I still don’t have that,” Fontana said to the ISU in early 2017. “That’s there up in my mind and sometimes it comes out and says, ‘Hey, you still miss me? So come get me!'”.

But after the 2014-15 season, Fontana’s desire for gold was eclipsed by something else: burnout.

“I was pretty tired mentally. My body was ready to race again but my mind was not. It was hard for me. After the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, I had some doubts about whether to keep skating or not,” Fontana said to the ISU. “Maybe it would have been better to take that year right after the Olympic Games off, but I decided to keep going. It is not that I regret it, but I had some hard times that season.”

She stayed active during her time off, learning how to box, which eased the transition back to skating.

Her pursuit for gold was what motivated her comeback, and in 2018 Fontana got what she came back for.

“When I saw I was first, I was just yelling and started crying. I worked for four years and the last four months were really hard for me. I was really focused on getting here in the best shape ever,” Fontana said after earning the 500m Olympic title.

“I was chasing it and finally I got it.”

In addition to her 500m gold medal, Fontana also added a 1000m bronze and 3000m relay bronze.

Fontana has spoken about retirement, but has not made a definitive decision. She will only be 31 years old by the time 2022 rolls around, so she could feasibly add to her medal haul if she competes. What she has made clear is that when she does leave the sport she hopes to become a personal trainer.

Whenever she does retire Fontana should be considered not only one of the greatest Italian athletes or greatest short track skaters, but also one of the greatest Winter Olympians.

How to watch Closing Ceremony of 2018 Winter Olympics

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Another Olympics is in the books.

The PyeongChang Closing Ceremony will cap off the 2018 Winter Games Sunday morning, beginning at 6 a.m. ET / 3 a.m. PT with a live stream of the events.

Jessie Diggins has been named the U.S. flag bearer after an incredibly gutsy performance to take home the country’s first-ever gold medal in Cross-Country.

How, when and where to watch the Closing Ceremony

Stream LIVE on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app: Sunday at 6 a.m. ET / 3 a.m. PT (Stream here)

The live stream will feature all the sights and sounds of the Closing Ceremony without any commentary.

Watch on TV: Sunday at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on NBC (Stream here)

The Olympic figure skating commentating trio of Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir and Terry Gannon will host the Closing Ceremony on NBC in primetime beginning at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT.

“It’s a huge honor and privilege,” Lipinski said. “I’m so excited to embark on this new and exciting adventure and bring the Closing Ceremony to the U.S.”

“This is a glorious and unexpected experience that I can’t wait to get fancy for!” Weir said.

Mike Tirico – NBC’s primetime host throughout the PyeongChang Games – hosted the Closing Ceremony for Rio in 2016 alongside Ryan Seacrest and Mary Carillo.

Tirico and Katie Couric hosted the PyeongChang Opening Ceremony in South Korea two weeks ago.

Sunday night’s primetime edition of the Closing Ceremony will also feature simulstreams on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app. (Stream here)