Shaun White needed to be perfect to win a gold medal Wednesday. He was, and became the first snowboarder ever to win Olympic gold three times.
White missed the podium at the 2014 Sochi Games, finishing fourth, and suffered a horrific crash while training for these Olympics in October. But “The Flying Tomato” won redemption in dramatic fashion Wednesday at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, with a breathtaking final run in the men’s halfpipe that earned a score of 97.75 out of 100.
A terrific first run put White in the early lead, but a brilliant run in the second round by Japan’s Ayumu Hirano overtook him by a single point. With gold on the line, White — the final competitor of the day — flew down the course cleanly and nailed his repertoire of spectacular tricks, capped by back-to-back 1440-degree spins.
REDEMPTION FOR SHAUN WHITE!
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics)
Hirano won the silver, and Australia’s Scotty James took the bronze.
White, 31, collapsed in joy and broke down in tears after his final score was announced. “I’ve been through so much to get to this point,” White told Comcast Corp.’s CMCSA, +1.09% NBC Sports, citing his age and October injuries. “It’s all worth it now.”
White first won gold and became an international superstar as a 19-year-old at the 2006 Torino Winter Games, then defended his halfpipe title in 2010 in Vancouver.
He became the first American male to win gold at three separate Winter Olympics. Speed skater Bonnie Blair also did that, at the 1988, 1992 and 1994 Games.
White’s victory was the United States’ 100th gold medal in Winter Olympics history, the second-most of any country, trailing only Norway.