Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland won the men’s snowboarding halfpipe gold medal on Tuesday night in Sochi, beating out Shaun White and 10 other finalists on the Winter Olympics’ much-criticized course.
The Russian-born athlete posted a score of 94.75 out of a possible 100 to leapfrog into first place on his second of two runs, while two riders from Japan — Ayumu Hirano, with a score of 93.50, and Taku Hiraoka, with a 92.25 — took silver and bronze.
“I’m about to faint. I haven’t seen the gold yet,” said Podladtchikov, who gets his gold Wednesday. “That’s why I don’t believe it.”
Podladtchikov, who goes by the moniker “I-Pod” on the snowboarding circuit, won with a trick he invented called the “Yolo” – You Only Live Once – a trick that White has failed to master during competition.
I-Pod had scored an 86.5 in his first run – clearly in medal contention – and then won it on his second attempt. The Yolo includes a total of 1440 degrees of spin – two head-over-heels flips and two 360-degree turns.
Four years ago, it was unthinkable, but not anymore. He landed it and even though he only threw five tricks, when most riders were trying six in a supersized, super-slushy halfpipe, the judges liked what they saw, says KSBW.
“I don’t like seeing him fall,” Podladtchikov said. “With Shaun, I always want to see how he is doing his stuff, because he’s going for it. Everyone is like, ‘I’m gonna do it a little cleaner and a little bigger and it’ll do.’ But no, it’s not gonna do and thank God, it doesn’t do it for him.”
The 27-year-old White was trying to become just the fourth athlete in Winter Olympics history to win three consecutive gold medals in an individual sport.
Even though he was listed as the heavy favorite and landed the trick twice in qualifying events leading up to the Olympics, unfortunately, during the finals, the most famous snowboarder in the world couldn’t perform the element.
“I’m disappointed,” White said. “I hate the fact I nailed it in practice, but it happens. It’s hard to be consistent.”
“”Fourth was a gift,” U.S. teammate Danny Davis said of White. “First of all, it’s good for snowboarding that White lost. Now everybody knows there are other good riders in the world.”
Davis finished 10th and Greg Bretz 12th as the United States failed to medal for the first time in the event.
“We let America down,” said Davis. “Sorry, America. Iouri shined bright.”
Podladtchikov’s winning performance came after a controversial few days for Sochi’s halfpipe course. As Mashable reports, snowboarders criticized its design as dangerous and “crappy” and 34 rider falls were reported during Tuesday’s qualifying rounds. Multiple riders took spills in the finals as well.
“It’s still not awesome, but at least it’s ridable,” said American Taylor Gold, who failed to reach the final.
White, at 27 the oldest rider in the final, wondered if he could land a run when waking up Tuesday. But he wouldn’t blame conditions for the rare defeat.
“Everybody was riding in the same conditions,” said White, who uses Northstar at Tahoe as his training base. “I knew it gave a lot of people a hard time.”