Shaun White has a habit of stealing the spotlight, thanks to three Olympic gold medals.
This Olympics, his story in the halfpipe has a twist. He came in as a 35-year-old underdog, but one motivated by knowing that this will be his last Olympics, and maybe his last competition.
Making the podium is a possibility, but so is failing to reach the final at all.
On Wednesday, White started strong on his first run but fell toward the end, scoring a 24.25 and making his second run key to moving forward.
White was one of 25 riders trying to advance to Friday’s 12-man final. Each competitor was given two runs, with only the better score counting in the rankings.
White knew that he could struggle to keep up with the halfpipe event in 2022. He used to dictate the next-level tricks. These days, several riders, most of them from Japan, came with the hopes of landing triple corks — tricks with three off-axis rotations in the mode of a corkscrew.
The favorites for gold are Australia’s Scotty James and Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, twice an Olympic silver medalist. Both are expected to advance easily, and only James may be able to prevent a Japanese podium sweep.
In his first four Olympics, White only missed the top step of the podium once, in Sochi, Russia, eight years ago. This time, getting a medal at all would be the bigger surprise.