On Tuesday night, the record-holding snowboarder Shaun White scored a gold medal, tearing up the men's halfpipe final. While he was always a medal favorite, fans were still over-the-top thrilled at the 31 year-old's success. His final score was a 97.75.
PyeongChang marks White's third Olympic gold medal to date. The others were earned in 2006 and 2010. While he was expected to place gold in 2014, he ended up coming in fourth place. Many characterized the 2018 Winter Games as a way to undo Sochi's disappointments.
"People ask, 'When are you going to get over it?' You know, the loss or whatever. You don’t, you don’t really ever get over it," White told NBC last year. And while that may be true for White, he came back four years later with a vengeance.
From his very first go down the halfpipe on Tuesday evening, White landed himself in the first place position, scoring a solid 94.25. However, during the second run session, he was unseated. The victor, temporarily, was Ayumu Hirano, a 19 year-old snowboarder from Japan.
One move Hirano landed, one that almost definitely helped him bump White out of the lead position, was actually a combination. Gracefully, he landed two consecutive 1440 degree spins. White, meanwhile, was left with no other choice but to try and match his opponent.
However, it took White a minute to catch himself. During his second (of three) trips down the halfpipe course, he stumbled, and in snowboarding, there's no real room for error. (In figure skating, in contrast, judges tend to be a bit more forgiving if the routine was difficult enough.) His second score, a disappointing 55, was dubbed a "throw away" by commentators.
When it came to the third and final round, the medal position was the only question left to solve. White, Hirano, and Australia's Scotty James had secured their position in the top three, and their performances would decide who took home what color.
James, who was sitting on a 92 point score from his first try, ultimately did not surpass his first performance. In a very cinematic show, the gold medal came down to the final two athletes — White and Hirano.
When Hirano first left the top of the halfpipe, he caught some serious air — and attention — but swiftly stumbled, effectively forfeiting his score that round. However, for a moment, that didn't matter, because he was still holding the golden position from his second attempt.
White, however, was determined. Utilizing Hirano's double 1440, White threw the maneuver right back in his opponent's face. Commentators cheered as White tore down the course. By the time he got to the bottom, he appeared to know exactly what he had done. Glee spread across the athlete's face, and a moment later, the judge's called the score: a 97.75. Olympic Gold, again.
White erupted into cheers when the score dropped, and then, after a half beat, it was all tears. White turned bright red as he hugged his friends and family, yelling, "We f*cking did it!"
Afterward, he took a moment with reporters to reflect on what he had achieved. "Honestly I just felt it inside. I had it. I knew I had to put it down and it's so hard to describe," White told NBC in a televised interview afterward. "I knew I had it but I had to still do it... I can't tell you how amazing it felt. I'm so proud of even my first run out here. And what can I say, it's my fourth olympics. Three gold."
Correction: A previous version of this story cited an erroneous NPR report on the results of the men's snowboarding halfpipe. It has been updated to accurately reflect the results.