Updated: February 13, 2014 at 6:32 am
SOCHI, Russia • Shaun White ended his gold medal run with a strong statement of class.
As White skidded to the bottom of the halfpipe course on a cold night in Russia, he immediately headed for Iouri Podladtchikov. White had ruled halfpipe competition for nearly a decade, but on this night he had been conquered by a Swiss athlete with an extremely long name.
The men embraced, and White stepped away.
“Tonight was just not my time,” White said.
It sure wasn’t. White’s gold medal run started in 2006, and he was trying to become the fourth athlete in Winter Olympic history to claim three straight golds in an individual sport. White scored 90.25, which seemed a generous score considering he slipped twice, and finished fourth behind Podladtchikov’s 94.25.
After a performance that will be considered a defeat, White was philosophical. He had said he planned to “play some music” and tour with his band.
The day started with tremendous promise. White scored 95.25 on his first run in qualifying, and it was a classic performance. He seemed ready.
Even after a troubling first run in the finals, White was unbothered. He fell twice, but offered a thumbs-up to the crowd along with a oh-well shrug.
His second run ended a surprisingly brutal Olympics for White, who withdrew from Saturday’s slopestyle competition. He said he wanted to concentrate on a three-peat in the halfpipe. There were also concerns about his injured ankle and shoulder.
Everything was set for a dramatic finale. White was the final competitor, and the crowd at Rosa Khotor Extreme Park high in the mountains rose in anticipation.
White, for once, couldn’t deliver. He soon was embracing the new Olympic champion.