Shaun White's Biggest Obstacles to Halfpipe Gold in Sochi

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 10, 2014

Shaun White of the United States gets air during a snowboard half pipe training session at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.  (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Sergei Grits/Associated Press

From an American perspective, there is no bigger superstar in the 2014 Winter Olympics than Shaun White (at least until Gracie Gold is gracing the cover of every cereal box in the future should she win gold).

White, otherwise known as the “Flying Tomato” in the past, is already a legend, but he will be trying to cement his status as the best halfpipe snowboarder of all-time with an unprecedented third straight gold medal. 

If his Twitter page is any indication, White is ready to compete for gold in Sochi:

Here is the schedule for the men’s halfpipe event that White will look to win:


Men’s Halfpipe Qualification

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 11

Time: 5 a.m. ET, 2 p.m. Sochi time and 10 a.m. GMT 

TV Broadcast: NBC at 8 p.m. ET (rebroadcast) and BBC at 10 a.m. GMT


Men’s Halfpipe Semifinals

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 11

Time: 10 a.m. ET, 7 p.m. Sochi time and 3 p.m. GMT 

TV Broadcast: NBC at 8 p.m. ET (rebroadcast) and BBC at 3 p.m. GMT


Men’s Halfpipe Finals

Date: Tuesday, Feb. 11

Time: 12:30 p.m. ET, 9:30 p.m. Sochi time and 5:30 p.m. GMT  

TV Broadcast: NBC 8 p.m. ET (rebroadcast) and BBC 5:30 p.m. GMT


As with any Olympics, there will be some obstacles in the way for White. Let’s dig into a discussion on some of the things he will have to overcome if there is to be gold around White’s neck following the halfpipe.


Dealing with Distractions

Andy Wong/Associated Press

Coming into the Olympics, White intended on competing in the slopestyle event as well. However, he withdrew from the event fewer than 24 hours before the qualifying runs were to take place, which elicited some criticism from his fellow competitors.

"Mr. White... It's easy to find excuses to pull out of a contest when you think you can't win," Sebastien Toutant tweeted.

Maxence Parrot also tweeted the following, before erasing it: "Shaun knows he won't be able to win the slopes, that’s (sic) why he pulled out. He's scared!" 

White is a veteran and should know how to look past distractions like this, but it’s just another potential thing weighing on his mind before the halfpipe competition.


Fighting Through Injury and a Difficult Course

White is coming into these Olympics battered and bruised.

Feb 5, 2014; Krasnaya Polyana, RUSSIA; Shaun White (left) and Kaitlyn Farrington (right) walk off following the USA Snowboarding Halfpipe Press Conference at Gorki Media Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew P. Scott-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew P. Scott-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few weeks, he has dealt with a wrist injury, a shiner under his eye, an ankle sprain and a shoulder jam. If there were ever a Games event for a challenger to emerge victorious over White, it would be this one.

What’s more, all the halfpipe snowboarders are going to be forced to deal with a difficult course.

Workers had to make adjustments to the steep course that was laced with chattery ice after numerous riders crashed during practice runs. American Hannah Teter (2006 gold medalist), expressed her dismay in an Associated Press interview that was relayed by 

When you see every other person fall, you know something's wrong. It's a little dangerous. I've seen more people fall today than I saw all season. It's dangerous because it's crappy. … The first contest is tomorrow and nobody's ready. They haven't been able to practice their tricks. They're trying to stay alive every run. It's harsh.


Holding Off “Mumu”

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 10:  Ayumu Hirano of Japan trains during Snowboard Halfpipe practice during day 3 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 10, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Every rider has to deal with distractions, the difficult course and various degrees of bumps and bruises. What will ultimately determine if White wins the gold in Sochi is his ability to hold off Ayumu Hirano of Japan.

Hirano is the likely heir to White’s throne in the snowboarding world, and he is only 15 years old. Despite a potential burgeoning rivalry, White enjoys watching “Mumu,” as he told Jason Blevins of The Denver Post:

I love watching him ride. It's a nice reminder about the sport to me ... because he's not the biggest guy out there, and I'm not the biggest. It doesn't really make a difference, the size. It's all your mind-set and how you use the terrain, and he's a great example of that. 

Hirano won the silver medal at the 2013 X Games' superpipe behind his back-to-back double-cork 1080s. Look for him to try to put on an even bigger show in Sochi with the Olympics gold medal on the line.


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