Shaun White during his first run of the half pipe final. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
• The 16-year old Japanese boarder, Yuto Totsuka, was injured on his second run and did not return to competition. Totsuka injured his hip, but didn’t suffer any head or neck trauma, according to Japan’s team spokesman.
Ayumu Hirano Falls on Third Run
The event comes to a dramatic conclusion with the three medalists, Ayumu Hirano, Shaun White and Scotty James taking the last three runs. Hirano went first, trying to improve his leading 95.25 that featured back-to-back 1440s. But he fell, and could not. Scotty James also fell on his last run and will win the bronze medal. So, it’s time for Shaun White. Will it be silver, or gold?
Shaun White Falls on Second Run
Gold won’t come easily for Shaun White, who has slipped behind Hirano. He needed to outdo his first routine, but he was a little ragged on some early landings, and then fell. If he’s going to win gold, he’ll have to do it on his last run, which will be the final run of the competition.
Ayumu Hirano Takes Lead
After falling on his first run, Ayumu Hirano was in need of a good second run to get higher on the scoreboard than Shaun White and Scotty James. And he delivered a much better run, landing all his tricks, including back-to-back 1440s. It’s worth a 95.25, a point better than Shaun White, who is on deck.
Scotty James is now back in third. His run was solid and smooth until a skid on the very last landing. No improvement.
Japan’s Yuto Totsuka Injured in Second Run
A bad spill in the second run for 16-year old Yuto Totsuka of Japan. He landed hard of the lip of the pipe and shot down its seven-meter height. Totsuka stayed down and, after being attended to by medical personnel, was taken off the halfpipe on a sled. The crowd, which includes many Japanese supporters, has been stunned into silence. Read more on danger in the sport here.
Shaun White Delivers on First Run
We’ve been watching Shaun White deliver great performances for a decade, and on the Olympic stage he comes through. Great elevation, a dizzying number of rotations and clean landings. White takes the lead with a 94.25 and is in the driver’s seat for the gold after one run. White was clearly happy with the run, throwing his helmet in celebration.
White’s run began with a frontside 1440 and included a 1260 as well.
Scotty James Sets the Bar High
With the American Chase Josey in the lead at 87.75, it’s time for the first of the Big 3, the high-flying Ayumu Hirano of Japan.
But Hirano slips on landing his second big jump. He’ll have to wait for a later run to go for his medal.
Next up was the brash Scotty James of Australia, a two-time world champion who at 23 is more than ready to knock off the veteran White. He puts together a controlled run that is totally clean. The score is the best of the round, 92. Over to you Shaun.
Top Names Waiting for Their Shot
The three biggest names, Ayumu Hirano of Japan, Scotty James of Australia and White, will go in the last three spots.
Of the earlier, less heralded competitors, the first to put up a strong run was Patrick Burgener of Switzerland. He looked remarkably unruffled before his run, miming some air guitar, then hit all his tricks to score an 84.00. The American Chase Josey topped him with an 87.75. That’s probably not enough for a medal, but a real marker for the favorites to shoot for.
What to Expect in the Halfpipe
• Expect White to throw moves like the frontside double cork 1080, the frontside 5 stalefish, the double mctwist 1260, the and the frontside double cork 1260.
• His chief challengers are Ayumu Hirano of Japan, 19, who is noted for being the first man to land back-to-back 1440s, and Scotty James of Australia, 23, a two-time world champion who has said the judges unduly favor White.
• Each boarder gets three runs; only the best one counts.
• White is a two-time Olympic champion, in 2006 and 2010. He crashed hard in 2014 and finished a disappointing fourth.
• In qualifying, White put up a great run, then after Hirano and James scored higher, he topped it.
“I was stoked to put that run down, that took the pressure and the edge off and then I started seeing everyone putting these great runs in and I figured I would step it up,” he said. “They motivated me to send it on that last one.”
White went last in qualifying and, as the top qualifier, will go last of 12 again today. He likes the spot.
“I get my favorite slot, dropping in last, and that was big for me. That’s really a good-luck spot and I really wanted it. I’m happy to have it.”
• His rivals are significantly younger.
“Honestly Ayumu, I have watched him since he was 13 years old. He was in a tough position like I was as a kid where you have a lot of pressure to be the next great thing in the sport. Yeah they were saying that to him as a 13-year-old kid.“That’s a lot of pressure and a lot to live up to —and I am sitting there saying ‘What do you mean? I am still here’.”At 31, he is nearer to the end of his storied career than the beginning. “I am just proud to be someone that changed the sport.”