Pep talk from dad spurs Iouri Podladtchikov to gold
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia - Iouri Podladtchikov said a ticking off from his dad provided the spark that led to him snatching Shaun White's halfpipe title in one of biggest upsets of the Sochi Olympics on Tuesday.
The Russian-born Swiss snowboarder has a repertoire of tricks almost on a par with the American twice-Olympic champion but has often shown an inability to pull them off on the big stage.
In the first run in qualifying at the Rosa Khurtor Extreme Park, it looked like that may be the case again when he crashed on his first run and faced the ignominy of going out at the first hurdle.
"My second qualification was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, it was the gnarliest thing," said the 25-year-old.
"My dad said: 'Russia, you, all that pressure and you're not even going to end up going to the semifinals. You're screwing up right now'."
The 25-year-old responded with a run good enough to reach the semi-finals, from where he qualified for the final before lighting up the night with a brilliant run to win gold.
"When I got that right it felt like anything was possible and from then on I was building another little piece every run," he said.
"My day started really, really low and ended at the highest point possible."
That high point included the perfect execution of his trademark YOLO, or "You Only Live Once", flip which White had added to his own bag of tricks to great effect.
"When I saw videos of Shaun doing it really well, I was really bummed because it was my trick and he was already doing it better than me," Podladtchikov said with a smile.
"You know today, I guess I was doing it better."
Embedded owg_slideshow: Through the lens: Iouri Podladtchikov tops Shaun White in halfpipe
His relations with White were good, he thought, mainly because they recognized in each other a desire to push the boundaries of their sport.
"He said 'congrats,' I think he was happy for me," Podladtchikov said, adding that they had agreed to celebrate together. "We want each other to win because we are trying different things."
White had little to celebrate after finishing fourth behind two Japanese teenagers but agreed that he shared an experimental spirit with the man known on the circuit as "I-Pod".
"I've known him for a couple of years now, really great guy, always smiling, always happy, and he deserves a big win like this, he's been pushing it hard," said the American.
"It's nice to see someone stepping it up and doing new tricks, pushing the envelope of what's possible in the halfpipe. Congrats man!"
Podladtchikov was born in Moscow before leaving Russia for the Netherlands at the age of four and moving on to Switzerland when he was eight.
His cosmopolitan upbringing was much in evidence when he answered questions at his news conference in fluent Russian, English and German, only tripping up when he was asked to speak in Dutch.
The land of his birth, though, clearly exerts a major pull and he described winning gold in Russia as "beautiful".
"It's insane to hear Russian, I love to speak Russian, it reminds me of so many things from my childhood," he said.
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