Shaun White confirmed at the Laax Open what we already knew.
First, he is one of the U.S.’ top four male halfpipe riders, and expected to be named to his fifth Olympic team next week. Second, he will be an underdog at the Olympics.
White, the three-time Olympic snowboarding champion, finished third in Saturday’s final in Switzerland in the first contest this season that brought together all of the world’s best. That’s his first podium in five contests since returning from a three-year break from competition.
Laax Open Results: Men | Women
White scored 84 points in his first run, highlighted by his signature double McTwist 1260. He landed back-to-back double cork 1440s to win the 2018 Olympics but has not attempted that trick in three finals this season.
White cruised on his second run and did not attempt any major tricks, already assured of finishing as the top American.
Olympic favorite Ayumu Hirano of Japan won with a first-run 93.25, including back-to-back 1440s.
Hirano, a two-time Olympic halfpipe silver medalist who then competed in skateboarding at the Tokyo Games, last month became the first snowboarder to land a triple cork in a halfpipe competition.
He tried another triple cork in his second run on Saturday but fell as he descended into the bottom of the pipe.
Fellow Japanese Ruka Hirano (no relation) landed on his butt on two triple cork attempts Saturday.
Australian Scotty James and Japanese Yūto Totsuka, the last two X Games Aspen winners, did not land clean runs and finished 11th and 12th.
Also Saturday, 2018 Olympic gold medalist Chloe Kim won the women’s event and confirmed she’s just as big a gold-medal favorite as four years ago.
Kim, 21, landed a pair of 1080s in her first run, scoring 90.25 points. It held on to beat a field that included Olympic medal contenders Liu Xiayu and Cai Xuetong of China and Queralt Castellet of Spain.
Kim won all six of her contests since returning last season from a 19-month break from riding a snowboard.
Neither White nor Kim is on the invite list for next week’s X Games.
ON HER TURF: Kim confirms Olympic favorite status at Laax
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