Snowboard Halfpipe

Shaun White makes first halfpipe podium since 2018 Olympics


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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Shaun White makes final of Olympic halfpipe preview in Laax

Dew Tour Copper Mountain 2021 - Day 2
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Shaun White‘s last-minute decision to enter a World Cup snowboarding contest in Switzerland means that, for the first time this season, all of the world’s male halfpipe riders are in the same event.

The Laax Open final on Saturday (11:30 a.m. ET, Olympic Channel and Peacock) should be an Olympic preview that defines the medal favorites for Beijing.

White, a three-time Olympic champion who has not made a podium in four events since returning from a three-year break, was the top American in qualifying and one of three to make the 12-man final.

White flew to Laax to erase any doubt about whether he should be one of up to three coaches’ picks for the Olympic team. He has performed like one of the top Americans since his return to competition, though not like an Olympic medal favorite.

Taylor Gold, 2014 Olympian, already clinched a spot on the team. Chase Josey, a 2018 Olympian, is also likely to make it. The fourth spot after White appears open and could be decided by Lucas Foster and Joshua Bowman‘s results in the final.

The team will be announced next week. White, 35, is older than any previous Olympic male halfpipe rider, according to

He will be an underdog in Saturday’s final to Japanese stars Ayumu Hirano and Yūto Totsuka.

Hirano, a two-time Olympic silver medalist, became the first man to land a triple cork in competition last month. Totsuka was the world’s top rider last season while Hirano didn’t compete as he focused on skateboarding at the Tokyo Games.

The final also includes Australian Scotty James, the 2018 Olympic bronze medalist who is competing for the first time this season.

Hirano, Totsuka and James are on the invite list for next week’s Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado. White, the face of the event for so many years, is not.

The women’s halfpipe final in Laax includes defending Olympic champion Chloe Kim, who is already qualified for Beijing, and some of her top challengers, including Chinese Cai Xuetong and Liu Jiayu.

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Shaun White opts out of last Olympic qualifier after COVID, still looks good to make team


MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, Calif. — Shaun White arrived at Mammoth Mountain hoping to lock in a spot on his fifth Olympic team.

The snowboarding superstar left it with his ankle hurting, a coach said, and work still left to do.

White put together a solid run during qualifying at the U.S. Grand Prix on Saturday night but aggravated a lingering ankle issue in the process, and he opted not to participate in the finals, U.S. head coach Mike Jankowski said.

A person familiar with White’s decision told The Associated Press that White’s ankle was not an issue, and it was COVID-19 symptoms that led him to call it a night. White’s withdrawal came after he experienced lingering COVID-19 symptoms, including fatigue and shortness of breath.

The person familiar with White’s decision said it does not impact White’s plans to compete in Beijing next month. The person requested anonymity because White has not publicly disclosed the reason for his withdrawal.

It led to the strange site of a portion of the 2022 U.S. Olympic snowboarding and freestyle team being announced later Saturday night without the 35-year-old who has redefined the sport.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for 2022 Winter Olympics

“If you’re off a bit and you’re not feeling your ‘A’ game, at this level, at night in the icy white, it’s risky as you know so he decided to take a break,” Jankowski said.

The setback was the latest in a series of them for White since he returned to the sport following a three-year sabbatical after his dramatic final-run triumph in Korea in 2018.

He finished eighth and seventh in separate events last month and said last week that he contracted COVID-19 in late December, describing his symptoms as a serious cold.

White arrived in California this week as the third-ranked American in a discipline that’s become dominated by the Japanese (Olympic favorite Ayumu Hirano and Ruka Hirano went one-two in Saturday’s final).

White stressed the importance of wanting to generate some momentum heading to China, Now he finds himself in fourth behind a group led by 2014 Olympian Taylor Gold, though White is still likely in good position provided he’s healthy. The team does not have to be finalized until Jan. 21.

“(White) just wants to train and keep working hard and keep getting better,” Jankowski said. “He’s hoping the spot where he’s at now holds solid and that he’s able to get the nomination to the team.”

While White’s status is still unclear, six more snowboarders or freeskiers clinched Olympic spots at Mammoth in the last opportunity to do so objectively. The rest of the team will be filled out by coaches’ picks.

The most prominent qualifier Saturday was two-time Olympic ski halfpipe gold medalist David Wise, who finished second behind New Zealand’s Nico Porteous in Mammoth.

Wise, 31, landed back-to-back double cork 1260s to cap his first of two runs for 95.25 points. He joined the previously qualified Alex Ferreira and Aaron Blunck on the men’s ski halfpipe team.

Wise was likely ticketed for an Olympic spot regardless of his result in Mammoth. U.S. coaches can add a fourth man to the team via their discretion. That spot could now go to Birk Irving, who was third at both X Games and the world championships last season, and then fourth on Saturday.

In women’s ski halfpipe, China’s Eileen Gu remained undefeated this season with her fifth win, recording the two highest scores (94.75 and 97.50). Gu, an 18-year-old born in San Francisco to an American father and Chinese mother, could sweep the three freeski golds in Beijing — pipe, slopestyle and the new Olympic event of big air.

Brita Sigourney, the bronze medalist in 2018, finished third and clinched a spot on the Olympic team. The 17-year-old Hanna Faulhaber previously qualified. Coaches can add up to two more women to the team.

PyeongChang Olympians Hailey Langland and Chris Corning earned berths in slopestyle and big air, joining defending slopestyle gold medalists Jamie Anderson and Red Gerard, who previously qualified and then won at Mammoth. Dusty Henricksen also previously made the men’s team.

On Sunday, Alex Hall and Maggie Voisin clinched spots in ski slopestyle and big air. Hall swiped a spot from two-time Olympic medalist Nick Goepper on the last run of the competition, but Goepper is likely to be named to the team with a discretionary pick.

No Americans were in Saturday’s women’s halfpipe final. The 2018 gold medalist Chloe Kim and fellow Olympic medal contender Maddie Mastro previously qualified for Beijing. Two more women can be named.

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