Snowboarding at the 2022 Winter Olympics featured Shaun White's last ride, juxtaposed with Ayumu Hirano landing the first two clean-run triple corks in history; Chloe Kim returning with new priorities to defend her title; and Lindsey Jacobellis slaying a demon from the past by winning not one but two Olympic golds.
Austria won gold in an event from each sub-discipline grouping of the sport – big air, snowboard cross and parallel giant slalom – while Jacobellis and Kim notched three total for the United States, as the two nations tied for the top spot with an additional silver apiece.
Jacobellis was the only athlete to bring home two titles, grabbing gold in both the individual and mixed team snowboard cross events. Young stars Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and Su Yiming each earned a different variation of gold and silver in slopestyle and big air.
Snowboarding Medal Tables
|United States 🇺🇸||🥇🥇🥇🥈|
|1||Lindsey Jacobellis (USA) 🇺🇸||🥇 BXT, 🥇 SBX|
|2||Zoi Sadowski-Synnott (NZL)||🥇 SS, 🥈 BA|
|Su Yiming (CHN)||🥇 BA, 🥈 SS|
|4||Max Parrot (CAN)||🥇 SS, 🥉 BA|
|5||Eliot Grondin (CAN)||🥈 SBX, 🥉 BXT|
|Omar Visintin (ITA)||🥈 BXT, 🥉 SBX|
|7||Meryeta O'Dine (CAN)||🥉 BXT, 🥉 SBX|
Shaun White calls it a career and Ayumu Hirano assumes throne
After winning gold No. 3 in PyeongChang, Shaun White took more than three years off from competition. Despite being the defending champion, a fifth Olympics and fourth title would be difficult tasks for the aging rider, as progression in the sport he led for so long had finally begun to catch up with its master.
The Californian finally returned last March for the Aspen Grand Prix and finished fourth, then struggled early this season, placing eighth at the Copper Grand Prix and seventh at Dew Tour, after which he told TODAY that the 2022 Olympics would likely be his "last run."
Entering the new year, White contracted COVID-19 and subsequently dropped out of the Mammoth Grand Prix, the final qualifying event of the selection period. Vying for a coaches' pick, he flew to Switzerland's Laax Open and landed his first podium finish since the 2018 Games in third to essentially seal the fifth berth.
At 35, White became the oldest-ever Olympic men's halfpipe competitor upon dropping in for his first qualifying run at the 2022 Winter Games. But also, for the first time ever, he didn't enter the Games as one of the favorites to win gold.
The ensuing performance was certainly gold-worthy, though, as White put down a clinching run in classic form. White first under-rotated a signature double McTwist 1260 during his opener, then came back to triumphantly stomp the trick in Run 2 and make it into his fifth Olympic final.
In the final, the sport's elder statesman laid down a strong second run, cleaning up a trick that gave him trouble earlier to score an 85.00. But Jan Scherrer's 87.25 ultimately held for bronze, dealing White an identical result to his finish in Sochi eight years prior, just 2.25 shy.
Japan's Ayumu Hirano, silver medalist at the last two Olympics, finally got his gold by stomping historic triple corks on each of his three runs' first hits, two of which came on clean runs. He scored a 96.00 on his last run to seal the victory.
The triple cork had been the talk of snowboarding for most of the season, with many speculating it would take the trick to win gold. Ayumu was the only rider who had landed the trick in a competition, albeit on a run in which he later fell.
Judges dealt Ayumu a tough break on Run 2, forcing him to go massive on his final run — which he did, recording a 96.00 with a pair of 1440s and a pair of 1260s, in addition to the triple cork.
Chloe Kim returns from hiatus to defend halfpipe gold
Chloe Kim entered the 2018 PyeongChang final as the overwhelming favorite at just 17 years old, and despite the massive pressure and expectations to deliver seemed relatively unfazed, tweeting midway through the contest about breakfast before laying down back-to-back 1080s on a 98.25 final-run victory lap.
But a flood of praise and critique followed, so much so that Kim began to dislike her biggest passion. Not long after breaking her ankle at the 2019 U.S. Open, she took a break from snowboarding competition — one that ultimately lasted 22 months.
The Los Angeles native spent March 2019 to January 2021 away from the sport, healing her ankle, attending her freshman year of college at Princeton University and meeting new friends outside the slopes.
"I really liked just doing something else for a little bit. I’ve been snowboarding competitively since I was like 12," Kim told NBC last January. "I think after the Olympics, I kind of started to realize that I was lacking a lot of experience outside of snowboarding … I didn’t want to regret not doing certain things."
Kim returned with a renewed love for her sport and proceeded to win the Laax Open, a fifth X Games Aspen title, a second straight world title and the Aspen Grand Prix, then continued her streak this season at Dew Tour and Laax.
"I started to resent [snowboarding] … and I was like, I need to miss it. And if I miss it, I'll go back, and if I don't miss it, I won't go back," she told NBC last September. "[But] I missed it. I missed it a lot … I just had the same emotions I did when I was 14, excited to get out there, excited to try new things, and excited to push myself."
At the 2022 Games, the defending gold medalist put down a low-gear run to lead halfpipe qualifying and advance to the final. The now 21-year-old reached nearly 13 feet in amplitude on her first run to score an 87.75, then had an uncharacteristic fall on Run 2 attempting a switch backside 720, but her first score held up.
"I was really nervous my first run 'cause we're at the Olympics, but I'm so happy I put one down," Kim said. "I just wanted to mess around on my second run, try something I've never really done before, so I'm surprised I made it that far, but yeah, I'm stoked."
In the final, Kim successfully defended her gold to become the Olympic event's first-ever repeat champion and multi-title winner. Emotional while awaiting her score of 94.00, she revealed to the camera she'd just had the worst practice of her life.
"I actually had a really tough practice, so it was a lot of mental challenges for me this morning," Kim said after the competition. "I'm just really proud of myself for going out there and trying despite all the mental battles I had this morning."
On her second and final runs, the Californian attempted to throw down a competition-first cab 1260 — a trick with three and a half rotations performed while riding switch — but missed both tries on the third hit. Nevertheless, she remained proud of her performance.
"I am in a much better headspace and I think I had a better idea of what to expect," Kim said. "I am so eager to see my loved ones, my family, my dog, my boyfriend, so I think that will keep me happy and I'm just gonna feel all the feelings and just be proud of myself."
Kim has pushed the event's progression ever since taking 2014 X Games silver at 14, too young at the time for Sochi. Her two golds follow those won by German Nicola Thost at Nagano 1998; Americans Kelly Clark at Salt Lake 2002 and Hannah Teter at Torino 2006; Aussie Torah Bright at Vancouver 2010; and American Kaitlyn Farrington at Sochi 2014.
Lindsey Jacobellis finally finds gold – then does it again
Snowboard cross made its first Winter Olympics appearance in 2006. A young American named Lindsey Jacobellis entered Torino as the heavy favorite, having won the last three X Games titles.
In the big final, the 20-year-old broke away with a strong lead over Tanja Frieden but attempted a method grab on the penultimate jump and messed up her landing. Frieden passed for gold, while Jacobellis managed to get up and over the finish line for silver.
Over the next 16 years, Jacobellis continually proved herself on the world stage, racking up five individual world titles and 10 individual X Games wins. She tallied an astonishing 52 podiums and 30 wins in individual snowboard cross alone on the World Cup tour.
But Olympic gold remained for some reason unattainable for the Connecticut-born Vermonter. After her silver in 2006, she finished fifth at the 2010 Vancouver Games, seventh at Sochi 2014 and just off the podium in fourth at the 2018 PyeongChang Games.
This season, Jacobellis placed third in back-to-back World Cup competitions in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, which made her a solid medal contender for the 2022 Games. A stacked field, though, led many to believe she wasn't a favorite to win gold, thus entering as a slight underdog.
The 35-year-old began her fifth Olympics by posting the No. 5 time of the seeding round. Then she came alive, winning her eighth-final, quarterfinal and semifinal to make it into the big final, where she battled defending champion Michela Moioli to take the victory triumphantly.
At the time, Jacobellis assumed the title of snowboarding's oldest Olympic medalist; and became only the second U.S. athlete to secure two Winter Games medals at least 16 years apart.
"They can keep talking about [Torino] all they want because it really shaped me into the individual that I am," Jacobellis said. "[It] kept me hungry and really helped me keep fighting in the sport."
Less than three days later, she was back on the SBX course for the Winter Games debut of mixed team snowboard cross, paired with fellow veteran Nick Baumgartner, who also had high hopes to win individually like Jacobellis but was ousted early in the bracket at the hands of his own teammate.
In falling snow and freezing temperatures, Baumgartner beat out Eiliot Grondin in the men's section of the big final, and Jacobellis followed up with another win over Moioli, subtly grabbing her board on the final jump in a full-circle ode to the infamous Torino moment that cost her a title nearly two decades ago.
"We came in hot today, we're really excited about it," Jacobellis said. "To be able to take this with someone I’ve been on the team with for over a decade – close to two decades now with Baum – it’s incredible to accomplish this together."
Baumgartner, 40, took over Jacobellis' title as the oldest Olympic snowboarding medalist, while Jacobellis added her second medal of the week despite taking nearly two decades to find another the first time.