Olympics: White defends snowboard pipe gold, Lago bronze
VANCOUVER, BC (Feb. 17) – With his famous long red hair flowing out of his helmet, American snowboarder Shaun White gave the Cypress crowd what they wanted see tonight as he defended his Olympic gold won in Torino. And he didn’t even need a second run to do it.
In the best of two run format, athletes have two chances down the 540-foot-long pipe to pull in their best score. The lower score of each athlete gets thrown away.
In his first run, White secured his second Olympic gold medal in as many Games with a run boasting huge amplitude and his signature back-to-back double corks.
“I was sweating it a little bit,” said White between runs. “It felt good I knew I had that run in me.”
White's “victory lap” was even more spectacular as he thrilled the crowd with more amplitude and an amazing double McTwists at the bottom of the 22-foot-tall pipe. Though he didn't need it, his second score was even higher than his first.
"Gosh, all I remember was the last hit. Everything was such a blur," said White. "I just felt like I didn't come all the way to Vancouver not to pull out the big guns. I put down the tricks I've worked so hard on."
With more riders in the final than another nation (4) the U.S. squad was gunning for a podium sweep, a goal that slipped through their fingers at the Torino Games after accomplishing the feat at the 2002 Games. With three riders in the final Finland was the only real threat.
The sweep was not to be as Finn rider Peetu Piiroinen scored a 45-point run his second trip down the pipe and bumped American Scott Lago to the Bronze medal spot.
With White and Lago’s medals, team U.S.A secured six medals today across all sports, a new national record. The U.S. now leads in the overall medal count with 14. Germany follows with 10 ahead on France with seven. Canada currently has six medals.
From skateboarding mecca Carlsbad, Cali., White, nine-time X Games gold medalist (in both snowboarding and skate boarding), came into Vancouver as the heavy favorite to win. He perfected what he calls the best trick he has ever done (the Double McTwist 1260) at a private halfpipe built for him in the Colorado mountains by his energy drink sponsor Red Bull.
The only Canadian to make the final, Justin Lamoureux, fell in the first run but came back with a solid second run to the delight of the home crowd but only managed to pull in a seventh-place finish.
Americans Louie Vito and Greg Bretz finished fifth and twelfth, respectively.
The Cypress pipe is a sight to behold, with 22-foot walls is stands two feet taller than the pipe at the 2006 Games and almost double the size of the pipe that was used at the sport’s Olympic debut at the Nagano 1998 Games.
Complications due to weather have plagued Cypress Mountain, the site of all Olympic Snowboarding and freestyle skiing events at the Vancouver Games. Unseasonal warm weather and rainfall in the last months has deteriorated the area’s early snowpack, forcing organizers to bring snow from higher mountains and use hay bails and wood ramps to build up the courses’ features. The most recent development saw the Vancouver Organizing Committee revoke almost half (4,100) standing-room tickets for all four snowboard cross and halfpipe due to unsafe conditions related to the snowpack. Fans were reimbursed for the original value of the tickets, but those who bought their tickets secondary sources for higher prices were out of luck.
Olympic halfpipe action continues in Cypress tomorrow with the women’s event.
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