2018-02-13 / Sports

White leads talented field into halfpipe final

BY WILL GRAVES
The Associated Press

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea

The legend, the brash upstart and the soft-spoken prodigy have been circling each other for months, trading boundary-pushing runs with one eye on the halfpipe and the other on their long-awaited faceoff in the South Korean mountains, the one for all the swag and an Olympic gold to boot.

Time to shred.

Shaun White, Australia’s Scotty James and Japan’s Ayumu Hirano delivered an epic teaser trailer in qualifying, setting up a finals showdown at Phoenix Snow Park on Wednesday that could deliver one of the defining moments of the Pyeongchang Olympics.

All three posted at least one run of 95 or better today, well clear of the rest of the other nine men who will try to elbow their way onto the podium. It won’t be easy, not with White, James and Hirano pushing each other and their sport in the process.

White exhaled after putting up a 93.75 on his first run, assuring the two-time Olympic champion of a spot in the finals. The 31-year-old elder statesmen didn’t plan on trying to go even bigger on his second run, but after watching James, Hirano and American teammate Ben Ferguson go big he realized he didn’t have much choice.

“I started seeing everybody putting in these great runs and I figured I would just kind of step it up and they motivated me to send it,” said White, whose 98.50 second run didn’t even include a 1440-degree jump. That’s a double-twisting double flip (four 360-degree body rotations in all) if you’re trying to keep up.

It also means White will have the last run of the afternoon, a spot where he soared to gold in Turin in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010. He didn’t even crack the top three in Sochi, a loss that haunted him at times before he hit reset last summer and pointed to South Korea.

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