When Shaun White pulled out of the slopestyle competition at the Sochi Olympics earlier this week, most of the sporting community felt that a gold medal in the halfpipe was inevitable. Well, miracles do happen, and White ended up finishing fourth in the halfpipe event, which means he won’t win a single medal at the Sochi Olympics and that the current snowboarding season will be the worst of his career.
It is not that an inability to medal should be considered unacceptable for any American athlete, but it should be for White, especially in the competition that he owns. After owning the qualifying round with a score of 95.75 in the morning, the Flying Tomato did nothing special during the final as he only landed each trick on the last of his three runs.
There is no doubting that the double cork he landed on this run was nothing sort of remarkable for any normal snowboarder, but it simply could not stand up against the Yolo move that gold medalist Iouri Podladtchikov pulled off, or any of the moves that the other medalists came up with.
Additionally, the excuse that weather should be brought into play — it was 60 degrees and a bit slushy on the halfpipe — is not valid, especially when White tore up qualifying and so did others. Simply put, he didn’t get the job done this year at the Olympics.
This fourth-place finish in the halfpipe final marks the first time that White competed at the Olympics and did not won the halfpipe competition, a run that stretches through the last two Olympic games. During this time, the 27-year-old was the standard-bearer for competitive snowboarding, continuing to raise the bar to levels that others thought would never be possible. It seemed that every time the bar needed to be raised in terms of new tricks, he was going to be there — until now.
Without an Olympic medal this winter, White is left in the odd position of not having anything of note to show for from any competitions. He already passed up on competing at the 2014 X Games, where he was six-time champion in the superpipe, and he only finished in third place in the pipe and slope competitions at the FIS Snowboard World Cup this past December.
Surely a couple of nagging injuries played at least a part in White missing out on a medal at the Olympics, and it was the main factor that led to him pulling out of the X Games. Still, for the man that is expected to win any halfpipe event that he enters, this doesn’t take away from the fact that the 2013-14 winter will be a blank void in the Flying Tomato’s resume, and it’s something that could haunt him for years to come.