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


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.”

Mikaela Shiffrin finishes World Cup with one more win, two more records and a revelation


Mikaela Shiffrin finished a season defined by records with two more.

Shiffrin won the World Cup Finals giant slalom on the final day of the campaign, breaking her ties for the most career women’s giant slalom wins and most career podiums across all women’s World Cup races.

Shiffrin earned her record-extending 88th career World Cup victory, prevailing by six hundredths over Thea Louise Stjernesund of Norway combining times from two runs in Andorra on Sunday.

An encore of Shiffrin’s record-breaking 87th World Cup win airs on NBC next Sunday from 12-1 p.m. ET.


She won her 21st career GS, breaking her tie for the most all-time on the women’s World Cup with Vreni Schneider, a Swiss star of the 1980s and ’90s.

She made her 138th career World Cup podium across all events, breaking her tie for the most all-time on the women’s World Cup with Lindsey Vonn. Shiffrin earned her 138th podium in her 249th start, meaning she has finished in the top three in 55 percent of her World Cup races dating to her debut at age 15 in 2011.

Earlier this season, Shiffrin passed Vonn and then Ingemar Stenmark, a Swede of the 1970s and ’80s, for the most career Alpine skiing World Cup victories. She won 14 times from November through March, her second-best season after her record 17-win campaign of 2018-19.

In those years in between, Shiffrin endured the most difficult times of her life, was supplanted as the world’s top slalom skier and questioned her skiing like never before.

On Saturday afternoon, Shiffrin was asked what made the difference this fall and winter. There were multiple factors. She detailed one important one.

“I had a lot of problems with my memory,” she said in a press conference. “Not this season, so much, but last season and the season before that. I couldn’t remember courses. And when I was kind of going through this, I couldn’t keep mental energy for the second runs.”

Pre-race course inspection and the ability to retain that knowledge for a minute-long run over an hour later is integral to success in ski racing. Shiffrin is so meticulous and methodical in her training, historically prioritizing it over racing in her junior days, that inspection would seem to fit into her all-world preparation.

She didn’t understand how she lost that ability until she began working with a new sports psychologist last summer.

“That was a little bit like less focus on sports psychology and more focus on, like, psychology psychology and a little bit more grief counseling style,” she said. “Explaining what was actually going on in my brain, like chemical changes in the brain because of trauma. Not just grief, but actually the traumatic experience itself of knowing what happened to my dad, seeing him in the hospital, touching him after he was dead. Those are things that you can’t get out of your head. It had an impact. Clearly, it still does.”

Shiffrin had a “weird a-ha moment” after her first course inspection this season in November in Finland.

“I didn’t take that long to inspect, and I remembered the whole course,” she said. “Oh my gosh, I was like coming out of a cloud that I had been in for over two years.”

What followed was a win, of course, and a season that approached Shiffrin’s unrivaled 2018-19. Fourteen wins in 31 World Cup starts, her busiest season ever, and bagging the season titles in the overall, slalom and GS in runaways.

“After last season, I didn’t feel like I could get to a level with my skiing again where it was actually contending for the slalom globe,” she said. “And GS, I actually had a little bit more hope for, but then at the beginning of the season, I kind of counted myself out.

“I feel like my highest level of skiing has been higher than the previous couple of seasons, maybe higher than my whole career. My average level of skiing has been also higher than previous seasons, and my lowest level of skiing has also been higher.”

There are other reasons for the revival of dominance, though Shiffrin was also the world’s best skier last season (Olympics aside). She went out of her way on Saturday afternoon to credit her head coach of seven years, Mike Day, who left the team during the world championships after he was told he would not be retained for next season.

“He is as much a part of the success this entire season as he’s ever been,” said Shiffrin, who parted with Day to bring aboard Karin Harjo, the first woman to be her head coach as a pro.

Shiffrin’s greatest success this season began around the time she watched a a mid-December chairlift interview between retired Liechtenstein skier Tina Weirather and Italian Sofia Goggia, the world’s top downhiller. Goggia spoke about her disdain for mediocrity.

“Ever since then, pretty much every time I put on my skis, I’m like, ‘OK, don’t be mediocre today,’” Shiffrin said in January.

During the highest highs of this season, Shiffrin felt like she did in 2018-19.

“It is mind-boggling to me to be in a position again where I got to feel that kind of momentum through a season because after that [2018-19] season, I was like, this is never going to happen again, and my best days of my career are really behind me, which it was kind of sad to feel that at this point four years ago,” said Shiffrin, who turned 28 years old last week. “This season, if anything, it just proved that, take 17 wins [from 2018-19] aside or the records or all those things, it’s still possible to feel that kind of momentum.”

After one last victory Sunday, Shiffrin sat in the winner’s chair with another crystal globe and took questions from an interviewer. It was her boyfriend, Norwegian Alpine skier Aleksander Aamodt Kilde.

“Excited to come back and do it again next year,” she replied to one question.

“Yeah,” he wittily replied. “You will.”

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Russia ban runs through Olympic gymnastics team qualifying deadline

Russia Gymnastics

Russia’s ban from international sport extended long enough that, as rules stand, its gymnasts cannot qualify to defend Olympic men’s and women’s team titles at the 2024 Paris Games, even if they are reinstated to compete elsewhere before the Games start.

Should the ban be lifted in time, they can still qualify for the Paris Games to compete in individual events.

Gymnasts from Russia, and other European nations not already qualified, need to compete at next month’s European Championships to stay on the path toward Olympic qualification in the men’s and women’s team events.

Earlier this month, the European Gymnastics Federation was asked by what date must bans on Russian athletes be lifted for them to be eligible to compete at the European Championships.

“According to our rules, changes can be made until the draw,” the federation’s head of media wrote in a March 8 email.

The draw for the European Championships was held Tuesday. Russian gymnasts, who are still banned from international competition for the war in Ukraine, were not included in the draw.

The 2024 Olympic team event fields will be filled by the top finishers at this fall’s world championships, plus the medalists from last year’s worlds. Teams can only qualify for worlds via continental championships, such as the European Championships, or the previous year’s world championships.

The International Gymnastics Federation, whose Olympic qualifying rules were published by the IOC last April, was asked if there is any other way that gymnasts from Russia could qualify for the Olympic team events. It responded by forwarding a March 3 press release that stated that Russia and Belarus gymnasts remain banned “until further notice.”

Russia’s gymnastics federation has not responded to a Monday morning request for comment.

Last December, the IOC said it planned to explore a possibility that Russian and Belarusian athletes could enter Asian competitions if and when they are reinstated. There have been no further updates on that front. The Asian Gymnastics Championships are in June.

In Tokyo, Russian women, competing as the Russian Olympic Committee rather than Russia due to the nation’s doping violations, won the team title over the heavily favored U.S. after Simone Biles withdrew after her opening vault with the twisties. It marked the first Olympic women’s team title for Russian gymnasts since the Soviet Union broke up.

At last year’s worlds, the U.S. won the women’s team title in the absence of the banned Russians.

Russian men won the Tokyo Olympic team title by 103 thousandths of a point over Japan, their first gold in the event since the 1996 Atlanta Games.

China won last year’s world men’s team title over Japan and Great Britain.

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