Second look: How hard was the halfpipe to handle?
In an unexpected turn of events during Tuesday’s men’s snowboarding halfpipe final, Shaun White missed out on the podium entirely. In fact, the traditionally dominant Team USA had no presence on the podium whatsoever for the first time in the sport’s Olympic history.
Since the inception of halfpipe as an Olympic discipline in 1998, Americans have always found a place atop one of the three podium positions. In 2002 Team USA actually swept the podium, a feat that has yet to be repeated in any Olympic snowboarding events since.
Post-2002, the Olympic halfpipe had been dominated by Shaun White, who had found gold in both of the previous two showings entering Sochi.
Embedded video_content_type: Shaun White misses out on halfpipe podium
With the result from Tuesday in mind, a lot of questions revolve around the conditions of the “world-class” halfpipe that these riders were forced to perform on.
Filling the air throughout the training sessions in the days prior to the final event were a series of serious moans and groans from athletes from every respective corner, especially those from the United States.
“[The conditions of the halfpipe] the whole week were pretty brutal,” said White, the two-time gold medalist in the halfpipe who was expected to make history by becoming the first American male to three-peat in any Olympic event. “I pulled out of [slopestyle] so I could get some extra practice but it just wasn’t existent. The pipe was really, really terrible.”
White was clearly disappointed in not simply his performance, but also the conditions in which he and the rest of the riders were forced to compete – but more so, practice – on. White went on to admit that although practice sessions were not up to par, the conditions for the final had improved.
Despite the serious concern heard in the days leading up to the final, on the day of the event there did seem to be light at the end of the pipe in regards to the increasingly-acceptable conditions.
“They really pulled it together tonight, though,” said White, with respect for the build crew and most of all his fellow competitors. “We all laid it on the line. It just wasn’t my night. It happens.”
Embedded video_content_type: Shaun White: 'It just wasn't my day.'
That same sentiment of the conditions continually getting better was expressed by White’s teammates, all of whom had high expectations of repeating the 2002 podium sweep for themselves and, of course, the United States.
“It changed for the better today. It’s still soft in there but I’m trying to go out there and have a good time,” said two-time Olympian Greg Bretz, who landed in 12th place for the second straight time at the Olympics. “They did a pretty good job of laying back and getting it ready for the contest today.”
Bretz was sure to note that although the conditions were better, it was “definitely soft and hard to edge in there.”
Fellow American Danny Davis was probably the most vocal rider in the days leading up to the halfpipe final, but when questioned about the conditions on the day of the event, his response seemed to indicate that he was ultimately delighted with the conditions.
“It’s bumpy in there still,” started Davis, before continuing to say, “but they did a hell of a job making it ridable. There is so much moisture in there, but they did a really good job.”
Win, lose or draw, this is still simply snowboarding and when Davis was asked the only thing that truly mattered – whether or not he had fun during his Olympic experience – he responded with a subtle smile, saying, “I did. I rode a lot of good snow here. It was a blast! Opening Ceremony was rad. Me and Greg had a good time. It was a blast!”
Now with the men’s halfpipe final in the past, the focus shifts to the women as they prepare themselves to take on the still-challenging conditions. The big question is if the Americans can reclaim the gold medal after Australia’s Torah Bright snapped the U.S. win streak at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Competing for Team USA on the women’s squad will be Kaitlyn Farrington and past gold medalists Hannah Teter and Kelly Clark. Arielle Gold was unable to compete in the qualifier after suffering a shoulder injury in practice.
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