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Shaun White Falters in Halfpipe in Olympic Stunner

(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

WGGB.com Editor’s Note: This story contains information and/or results from the XXII Winter Olympiad in Sochi, Russia. This event may not have aired yet. If you wish to not know the results, do not click through to or continue reading this article.

By EDDIE PELLS, AP National Writer

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Shaun White lost to a kid they call the “I-Pod,” and now, he may never hear the end of it.

An Olympic shocker this was. How big? White, the best snowboarder of his era, didn’t even win a medal. He finished fourth.

The 27-year-old American, who opted out of the Olympic slopestyle debut and put all his chips in the halfpipe, where he hoped to win a third straight gold medal, got knocked off by Iouri Podladtchikov, the Russian-born inventor of the trick that White could not master.

“He’s incredible,” American snowboarder Danny Davis said of Podladtchikov. “That run on that halfpipe. Wow.”

The Japanese pair of Ayumu Hirano and Taku Hiraoka won silver and bronze, and the Americans were shockingly shut out on the halfpipe for the first time since the sport was introduced to the Olympics in 1998.

I-Pod’s trick is called the “Yolo” — You Only Live Once — and when Podladtchikov, who now lives in and competes for Switzerland, landed it successfully at an event in Europe last season, White watched on his computer and knew what he had to do next.

He landed it twice in qualifying events leading up to the Olympics and was listed as the heavy favorite in sports books to become only the seventh person to win three straight in an individual event at the Winter Games.

But this has been a stressful few months for the world’s most famous snowboarder, and when he pulled out of the inaugural slopestyle contest, saying he didn’t want to risk injury for his historic quest on the halfpipe, the stakes were set.

It unraveled early.

White’s first attempt at the Yolo ended with a fall straight on his backside. For some reason, he tried to pull off another of his double-cork tricks but missed that, too — his board and backside getting caught on the lip of the pipe in an awkward and certainly painful fall.

I-Pod had scored an 86.5 in his first run — clearly in medal contention — and then came the run that won it. The trick 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.

As did I-Pod, who spiked his snowboard into the ground like a football.

It put huge pressure on White, whose final runs at the last two Olympics have been nothing more than pressure-free victory rides.

He didn’t fall, but rather skittered down the pipe on his Yolo landing. The landing on his last double cork was less than perfect, too — his knees buckled and nearly touched the snow. White raised one finger in the air and raised his hands in victory. Yes, sometimes judges reward athletes for what they’ve done, not what they just did.

Not this time. White’s fourth-place score, a 90.25, came up, and he broke into a big smile. He gave Podladtchikov a big hug and fatherly mussed his hair. That kid earned it. And the champion had nothing to complain about.

Associated Press

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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