White Lands Perfect Run To Clinch Olympic Selection
Two-time Olympic champion Shaun White (Carlsbad, Calif.) rose up to the challenge of making the Olympic Team with a definitive perfect winning run to lead a trio of Americans onto the 2018 Olympic Team Saturday at the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Aspen-Snowmass.
"It's been all about making the Olympic team and after having had a poor finish at the Dew Tour, it put a lot of pressure on me for the win at this event," White said. "And that was my goal - to win this thing!"
Sitting ninth out of 10 after his first run, White came back on his third and final run to score a perfect 100 to take the World Cup win over Australia's Scotty James in second and Yuto Totsuka of Japan in third. Americans Ben Ferguson (Bend, Ore.) and 2016 Youth Olympic Games champion Jake Pates (Eagle, Colo.) were fourth and fifth respectively. White, Furguson, and Pates all clinched spots on the Olympic Team with one selection event remaining. This will be White's fourth Olympic Winter Games dating back to the 2006 Games when he won gold in the halfpipe.
White nailed his perfect run with a frontside 1440 to cab double 1080, frontside 540, tomahawk and a frontside double 1260 - a trick he had worked on to clean it up over the last couple of weeks.
“Man, I’m tripping out,” said White. “What a day.”
White had strong practice runs but had a leg tighten up heading into the competition. His first run was a wash and he missed a landing on the second. On the outside looking in, White dropped in one final time for his third run and nailed it.
“For the third run it was this huge debate (with myself),” he said. “It’s like, ‘do you play it safe and make the Olympic team or do you try to win it?’”
At the top, White took his time as options raced through his mind. With encouragement from his coaches, he launched one of his sport’s best runs ever.
“I’m just so stoked and then I got a 100 man,” said White. “That was unreal. I was almost in tears, man, I shed a couple.”
White served notice when he launched a YOLO early in his run - a 1440 move that includes two head-over-heels flips and two 360-degree turns. He stuck it perfectly, then launching a cab double 10, wrapping up with double 12s - a McTwist 1260 and a front double 12.
“That was a cool one because I’d reworked that trick the second day of practice here,” said White.
The win clinched White’s spot for an unprecedented fourth Olympics.
“For sure, I mean it’s so exciting to be around this long,” said White, who is looking forward to returning to PyeongChang where he finished second to Australia’s Scotty James last year. “The test event was amazing. I’m so excited. I’m just going to take this run I’m doing now and just build – get it bigger, better, more technical tricks.”
In the women's halfpipe, Spain's Queralt Castellet took the win with Chloe Kim (Torrence, Calif.) top American in second ahead of Maddie Mastro (Steamboat Springs, Colo.) in third and Kelly Clark (Mt. Snow, Vt.) fourth.
Kim’s second-place run included an air front 10 tail, cab seven indie, front five McTwist.
With the Olympic Team already achieved, Kim contemplated the best approach to the event in Aspen-Snowmass.
“The pipe was a little tricky here and everyone was kind of struggling, so I just wanted to challenge myself, said Kim. “I wanted to put down a run that’s normally pretty easy for me in these conditions and I was able to do that. So, I’m pretty hyped. I’m looking forward to Mammoth now and it will be a good time.”
With Kim the only one to clinch a spot on the Olympic Team, Mastro heads to Mammoth Mountain next weekend with a continuing mission. “I’m really happy with how I’m riding and where I’m moving and the direction of my snowboarding,” said Mastro. “I just hope it keeps snowballing and rolling forward and I just keep climbing and climbing.”
Mastro put down a front nine, back five, front seven, Haakon, crippler and method to close.
Two spots via objective criteria remain open for the women's Olympic Team with Mastro, Clark and Arielle Gold (Steamboat Springs, Colo.) all in contention. While the three men's objective criteria spots are now filled, a fourth discretionary spot may still be available with a host of men vying for the potential opportunity.
HOW TO WATCH
All times EST
3:00 p.m – Slopestyle skiing finals #2 – nbcsports.com
3:00 p.m. – Halfpipe snowboarding finals – NBC (next day coverage)
1:30 a.m. – Slopestyle skiing finals #1 – NBCSN
12:00 a.m. – Slopestyle skiing finals #2 – NBCSN