What’s next for Shaun White after ‘frustrating’ halfpipe finish?

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Shaun White turned to face his coach, Bud Keene, about 20 minutes after he finished fourth.

“You’re all right,” Keene said. “That’s all I care about.”

White sighed.

“You’ve got plenty left in you,” Keene said. “Plenty left in you.”

But how much?

White’s Olympic future is in the air after he finished off the top step of a podium for the first time in three Winter Games.

At 27, he was the oldest rider in the 12-man final Tuesday night at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. Of the 64 all-time Olympic men’s halfpipe finalists, one has been over the age of 28. White will be 31 at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. Will he try for a fourth Winter Games?

VIDEO: Watch Shaun White’s two final runs

“I’m not sure,” White said as he walked to his next interview. “That’s the last thing I’m going to think about for a while.” (He had a slightly more concrete answer on Wednesday.)

Another question to ponder: Is this the end of the era of White dominating halfpipe competitions?

“It’s definitely not,” said the new Olympic champion, Swiss Iouri Podladtchikov, one of White’s best friends among snowboarders.

VIDEO: The science behind the “YOLO” flip

White could very well take a break, tour with his band, chew his brand of gum and come back to beat Podladtchikov, silver medalist Ayumu Hirano and the top Americans. But, at some point, he will lose to the one opponent who is undefeated – Father Time.

We’ve seen his Olympic sports contemporaries dip out of invincibility – Michael Phelps, Lindsey Vonn, even Roger Federer. One day Usain Bolt will no longer be the world’s fastest man, and that day may be approaching more quickly than one may think.

Snowboarding is not immune to aches and pains, aging and fading.

White won’t use it as an excuse, but he’s cut back on training due to ankle problems the last year. He injured one in August in New Zealand, then the other in December in Colorado. He’s faceplanted, fallen on his butt and given himself a black eye. It adds up.

“I’m going to go home now and lick the wounds,” White said, “and come back.”

White’s next hit will not come in a superpipe but with his band, he hopes. Bad Things plans to go back on tour this spring after releasing their debut album in January. He plans to take his mind off snowboarding by returning to his other sport, skateboarding, too.

But the fire must still burn. White is notorious for his competitive streak, one that seems to run in the genes of sport’s greatest champions.

VIDEO: Shaun White says “it just wasn’t my day”

White said he owes his ascension to the few riders who have beaten him and forced him to fly higher, spin faster and add new tricks.

How much will this defeat pump him up?

“It takes a minute,” White said, genuinely smiling through most of the interview. “It’s not like tonight’s really going to be like that night. But it will happen later on if that happens. Now is the deep depression part. You hit bottom, and you come back up. That’s what happens. It’s competition. It’s frustrating. That’s why it’s great. It’s hard. It’s really hard.”

It’s also hard to say that after one compromised competition during an injury-hit season that White is no longer the same awe-inspiring rider.

Many complained about the slushiness of the pipe, even the Olympic champion. It’s possible that affected White during his flawed runs, or in his head.

“He could continue to compete at the top level for a long time,” said 2002 and 2006 Olympic silver medalist Danny Kass, whom White saw as the man to beat when he was a teenager. “It’s hard to see pipe riding get pushed that much higher.”

VIDEO: A ‘YOLO’ flip delivered for I-Pod

There’s also the fact that this was the first Olympic halfpipe competition without a U.S. medalist. The winner was born in Russia and grew up in Switzerland. Second and third were Japanese.

White is arguably facing more international competition than Kass did. The U.S. swept the Olympic podium in 2002, but Kass doesn’t see it much different now.

“You always have good riders, you’ve seen great riders come out of Japan and Switzerland [before],” Kass said of two countries that have produced prior Olympic and X Games medalists.

Podladtchikov called it a weird feeling to beat White, that he had never done it at a serious event before. To that end, he, like everybody else, isn’t quite sure what comes next.

“I don’t want to know what’s going on in his head,” Podladtchikov said.

Podladtchikov asked White to celebrate with him. White obliged and said he would share a drink, “as much as it’s going to break my soul to do it.”

Will it be his last call at the Olympics? We’ll see how much is left in him.

“I don’t think it makes or breaks my career,” White said. “It’s just one night.”

2026 Winter Olympic host: Milan-Cortina

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Italy will host the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, with Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo winning an IOC vote over a Swedish-Latvian bid centered on Stockholm.

Milan-Cortina won with 47 votes to Stockholm–Åre’s 34 to become the first Olympics with multiple official host cities.

Italy boasted its public support (83 percent in a March IOC poll versus 55 percent in Sweden) and financial guarantees (Stockholm officials declined to sign the IOC’s host-city contract, leaving it to the smaller ski resort of Åre).

“I cannot look into the heads of my colleagues, but gathering a little bit the atmosphere when leaving the room, my assumption is that what was key and what finally made the difference was the gap in the public support,” said IOC President Thomas Bach, who was not among the voters. “This was, for many members, a clear signal. Public support offers goes hand in hand with political support. This was maybe also the reason then why the city of Stockholm was not ready to sign the host-city contract.”

The Games return to a traditional European site for the first time since Italy hosted in Torino in 2006 after Vancouver (2010), Sochi (2014), PyeongChang (2018) and Beijing (2022).

The two bids were left after five others dropped out for various reasons, all in 2018: Calgary, Canada; Erzurum, Turkey; Sapporo, Japan; Graz, Austria and Sion, Switzerland.

With the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games hosts both decided two years ago (Paris for 2024, Los Angeles for 2028), next up is the 2030 Winter Games. The U.S. has already said that if it bids, it will be with Salt Lake City, which held the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Italy will host the Winter Games for a third time after Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1956 and Torino in 2006.

Its bid presentation Monday included all three Italian 2018 Olympic champions speaking — Arianna Fontana (short track), Michela Moioli (snowboard cross) and Sofia Goggia (downhill). The presentation ended with 15-year-old short track speed skater Elisa Confortola addressing more than 80 IOC members.

Italy’s initial bid declaration in March 2018 was for a joint Milan-Torino candidate. Cortina was added within a week to make it a three-pronged bid. By September, Torino dropped out after political infighting, when a senior Italian official declared the bid “dead.” But the bid pressed on as Milan-Cortina, sites separated by more than 200 miles.

Sweden has finished second or third in all seven of its Winter Olympic bid votes, including six straight from 1984 through 2002, according to the OlyMADMen. Stockholm–Åre was trying to become the first Winter Games held in multiple countries, with Latvia holding bobsled, luge and skeleton. Sweden remains the nation with the most Winter Olympic gold medals yet to host a Winter Games.

“Our hope and expectation has been that the IOC would be ready to move from words to action and have confidence in Sweden’s ability to deliver the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games based on our proposal and vision,” Stockholm–Åre said in a press release. “We neither want, nor can present, a concept that involves major government grants and guarantees – or change the legislation – for a sports competition.”

The IOC praised how both bids fit with Agenda 2020 with 80 percent of the venues already existing or temporary and organizational budgets 20 percent lower than 2018 and 2022 cities.

More on the Milan-Cortina bid:

Proposed Dates: Feb. 6-22 (Olympics), March 6-15 (Paralympics)

Venues
Milan
 — Figure skating, hockey, short track
Cortina d’Ampezzo (220 miles northeast of Milan) — Alpine skiing (women), bobsled, luge, skeleton, curling, biathlon (Antholz)
Val di Fiemme (160 miles northeast of Milan) — Cross-country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined, speed skating (outdoors)
Valtellina (85 miles northeast of Milan) — Alpine skiing (men, Bormio), freestyle skiing, snowboarding

Ceremonies
Opening Ceremony — San Siro (home of AC Milan and Inter Milan)
Closing Ceremony — Verona Arena (Roman amphitheatre 90 miles east of Milan)

Slogan
“Dreaming Together”

IOC Evaluation Group Report
“Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo combine the advantages of a big European city and those of a popular mountain resort region in the Italian Alps. The candidature benefits from the region’s strong winter sports history, tradition and experience, as well as the Italians’ love and passion for sport. The project can also leverage the economic strength and prosperity of the northern Italian region. While planning is still at an early stage, the project has the potential to achieve the long-term goals of the cities and the region in line with Olympic Agenda 2020/New Norm.”

MORE: Tokyo 2020 Olympic master schedule

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Japan’s gymnastics worlds team: no Kohei Uchimura, Kenzo Shirai

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Not only is Kohei Uchimura going to miss the world championships, but so is 11-time world medalist Kenzo Shirai.

Japan finalized its five-man team for October’s worlds in Stuttgart, Germany, following a national-level meet this past weekend. Uchimura, arguably the greatest gymnast in history, was already out of the running, sidelined with his latest round of injuries.

Shirai, reportedly slowed by a left ankle injury this season, did compete this weekend. But he finished fifth on floor exercise and third on vault, his two best events, and did not earn one of the last two spots on the world team.

Uchimura, a two-time Olympic all-around champion with six world all-around titles, misses worlds for the first time since 2007. Shirai, a 22-year-old with four world titles between floor and vault, had competed in every worlds since debuting in 2013, just after his 17th birthday.

Without their two stars, Japan sends a relatively inexperienced team. Kazuma Kaya and Wataru Tanigawa, both 22, are the only men who have been to a worlds (and were part of the 2018 silver-medal team). The youngest member is 17-year-old Daiki Hashimoto.

Japan has earned a team medal at every Olympics and world championships since 2003, a streak bettered only by the U.S. women.

MORE: Olympic gymnastics team sizes return to five for Paris 2024

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