However, the 2014 Games proved to be a different story in Sochi, Russia, as the prolific American failed to medal in the halfpipe (via Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports):
Shaun White 90.25. Doesn't medal.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 11, 2014
Iouri Podladtchikov gold, Ayumu Hirano silver, Taku Hiraoka bronze. No American medals for first time ever.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 11, 2014
White finished behind Iouri Podladtchikov, who took home gold, and Ayumu Hirano and Taku Hiraoka of Japan, who won silver and bronze, respectively.
Here are the final scores and medalists in the halfpipe (via Bleacher Report):
The lack of United States presence on the podium was far from expected, as Alyssa Roenigk of ESPN points out:
Wow. No U.S. rider makes the podium in men's snowboard halfpipe. Would've bet the house I wouldn't type that sentence.— Alyssa Roenigk (@ESPN_Alyssa) February 11, 2014
Following the event, Danny Davis talked about White's finish:
Danny Davis on Shaun White: "Fourth was a gift, man." Damn.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 11, 2014
White's two runs had flaws, as the star fell on his first run, forcing him into a position where he had to deliver a massive performance in the final run of the competition to secure gold.
In that run, White slipped twice, keeping him off the podium, a scenario few imagined coming into the competition.
Scrutiny followed White as he decided to pull out of the men's slopestyle event. Instead, he elected to focus on the halfpipe rather than undertake the difficult course coming off various injuries, per a statement released through TeamUSA.org:
After much deliberation with my team, I have made the decision to focus solely on trying to bring home the third straight gold medal in halfpipe for Team USA. The difficult decision to forego slopestyle is not one I take lightly as I know how much effort everyone has put into holding the slopestyle event for the first time in Olympic history, a history I had planned on being part of.
That strategy didn't exactly win him any new fans, and it looks worse now that he's come up short in the competition he elected to focus on.
At least another American, Sage Kotsenburg, won the gold in the slopestyle—the maiden top prize in the Sochi Games—as Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports pointed out:
No Shaun White? No problem. First gold medal of Sochi in the first event of the games goes to the U.S. as Sage Kotsenburg wins slopestyle.— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) February 8, 2014
But the ramifications surrounding this letdown for White extend back to that event.
White's absence diminished interest surrounding the slopestyle due to his star power, and a loss on the halfpipe after his previous dominance is a disappointment. The 27-year-old has been the biggest name in snowboarding for more than a decade but failed to live up to the hype in the halfpipe at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
To be fair, though, White has been dealing with a variety of health issues. Injuries to both ankles and a jammed wrist suffered in practice leading up to a planned appearance in the slopestyle competition likely contributed to his lackluster result.
Hopefully White can bounce back and perhaps give the halfpipe—and maybe even the slopestyle—at least one more shot at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.