Scoring a 97.5 in his third halfpipe run, Shaun White did way more than just earn gold. He earned Team USA's 100th Winter Olympics gold medal, becoming a huge part of U.S. Olympic history. It had basically been a given that, as the 2018 PyeongChang Games progressed, one American athlete or another would walk away with the big honor. Viewers waited with anticipation as the medal count slowly increased in the games' opening days.
The excitement heightened on Monday evening, when Californian Chloe Kim won the 99th gold medal in U.S. Winter Olympic history. Scoring a 98.25 in the women's halfpipe final, all eyes then turned to Mikaela Shiffrin and Shaun White, gold medal favorites competing on Tuesday in the women's slalom and men's halfpipe final, respectively.
The United States has competed in the Winter Olympics since they began in Paris in 1924. Over time, the country became an undeniable Olympic powerhouse. By 2018, the United States had earned the second greatest number of gold medals at the Winter Games, falling in line just behind Norway. While that record still is held fast and strong by the Scandinavian country, which boasts 118 gold medals, the United States is trailing (arguably) closely behind.
Counting all medals earned in Winter Olympic history, the United States entered PyeongChang with 284 — including 96 gold medals. It's only a matter of time before the country hits triple digits.
In the run-up to both White's and Shiffrin's respective events, both were gold medal hopefuls. For Shiffrin's part, the 22 year-old arrived in PyeongChang shooting for three golds, at least. And not only was she already an extraordinarily accomplished skier, she had high praise from the most decorated U.S. skier in history — Bode Miller.
Miller, who is working as a ski analyst for NBC in this year's Games, told Reuters that he expected Shiffrin to do particularly well at PyeongChang. "I think she’s maybe the best ski racer I’ve ever seen, male or female. She’s so balanced, dynamic, intense and focused, so for me, I think she’s got a chance in any event she skis in," he told the news outlet.
"I would say it’s likely she wins two (Olympic) golds, I would say an outside shot at five medals, and I think probably, at her best, maybe three or four of them are golds," Miller further explained.
White, of course, has been a household name since at least 2006, when he first competed in the Turin Winter Games. Now 31 years old, the record-holding snowboarder came to PyeongChang hoping to medal after a very close call in Sochi, where he came in fourth place.
While the Olympic champion isn't speaking formally about retirement, when an Olympian hits 30 years old, it's a question that begins to form in a lot of fans' minds. However, from his very first run down the halfpipe on Tuesday, it was clear that White meant business, and that he had no intention of repeating his performance four years prior.
After completing his first go, which featured a double mctwist, White slid right into a 94.25. From there, viewers were on the edge of the seat as the second round of halfpipe competitors descended down the course.
Of course, White has a reputation for landing extremely high scores. Last month, at the U.S. Grand Prix of Snowmass in Colorado, White scored a perfect 100 – the second time he has done so.
White's first perfect 100 was in 2012, back in the 2012 X Games. He is one of only two people to ever earn the mythologized score. The other one? — Gold medalist Chloe Kim.