Shaun White got an up-close look at the new Olympic men’s halfpipe favorite, taking fourth behind Japanese Totsuka Yuto in White’s first snowboard contest in three years on Sunday.
Totsuka, 19, won with a 91.75-point opening run at the U.S. Grand Prix at Aspen, Colorado. White had a best score of 81.50 as the top American in the first of a series of U.S. Olympic qualifiers that resume next season.
White, 34, has work ahead to become the oldest U.S. Olympic halfpipe rider in history, but he’s in a good place. Taking a fourth gold medal is a much bigger ask.
White impressively landed a double cork 1440 in two of his three final runs in his first competition since winning the 2018 Olympics.
He hit back-to-back versions of the trick to win the PyeongChang Olympics, attempting the combination at a contest for the first time in his life and overtaking Japan’s Hirano Ayumu on the final run of the day.
Totsuka, meanwhile, landed 1440s regularly this season, including Sunday. He attempted back-to-back 1440s in his second run, falling on the back half.
Over the last 13 months, he swept the world’s biggest events — Burton U.S. Open, X Games and world championships — to overtake Australian Scotty James as the Olympic favorite.
Earlier Sunday, Chloe Kim capped an undefeated season after taking 2019-20 off, winning with a 90.50-point first run that included a 900. Kim landed back-to-back 1080s to win the 2018 Olympics.
Kim essentially qualified for the 2022 Winter Olympics by winning all four of her starts this winter, given up to the first two U.S. halfpipe spots per gender will be filled via world rankings early next season. She dominated this season without throwing multiple 1080s in any single run.
“I was in a really bad mental place when I left [snowboarding in 2019],” said Kim, who took Princeton freshman classes last year. “Just giving myself the time off and letting myself just take a step back and have fun again was really important.”
American Maddie Mastro, the last rider to beat Kim at the March 2019 Burton U.S. Open, did not start the final after suffering a concussion in a Saturday training fall.
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