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Shaun White Wins Halfpipe Gold Medal

Shaun White during his first run of the half pipe final. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea - Cometh the hour, cometh the snowboarder. Shaun White had to put up a first rate, clean run, and it had to have something of the spectacular. And that he did, soaring far above the pipe and landing everything to win his third Olympic gold medal.



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Men’s Halfpipe Final
Run 1Run 2Run 3Best Score
1Yuto TotsukaJapanJPN39.2539.25
2Kent CallisterAustraliaAUS20.0020.00
3Peetu PiiroinenFinlandFIN4.504.50
Patrick BurgenerSwitzerlandSUI
Jake PatesUnited StatesUSA
Chase JoseyUnited StatesUSA
Jan ScherrerSwitzerlandSUI
Raibu KatayamaJapanJPN
Ben FergusonUnited StatesUSA
Ayumu HiranoJapanJPN
Scotty JamesAustraliaAUS
Shaun WhiteUnited StatesUSA
Updated8:36 PM ET

• 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.”


Obama Portraits Blend Paint and Politics, and Fact and Fiction

Kehinde Wiley has set Mr. Obama against greenery, with flowers that have symbolic meaning. Amy Sherald’s take on Mrs. Obama emphasizes an element of couturial spectacle and rock-solid cool.
Credit Left, Kehinde Wiley; right, Amy Sherald
With the unveiling here Monday at the National Portrait Gallery of the official presidential likenesses of Barack Obama and the former first lady, Michelle Obama, this city of myriad monuments gets a couple of new ones, each radiating, in its different way, gravitas (his) and glam (hers).

Ordinarily, the event would pass barely noticed in the worlds of politics and art. Yes, the Portrait Gallery, part of the Smithsonian Institution, owns the only readily accessible complete collection of presidential likenesses. But recently commissioned additions to the collection have been so undistinguished that the tradition of installing a new portrait after a leader has left office is now little more than ceremonial routine.

The present debut is strikingly different. Not only are the Obamas the first African-American presidential couple to be enshrined in the collection. The painters they’ve picked to portray them — Kehinde Wiley, for Mr. Obama’s portrait; Amy Sherald, for Mrs. Obama — are African-American as well. Both artists have addressed the politics of race consistently in their past work, and both have done so in subtly savvy ways in these new commissions. Mr. Wiley depicts Mr. Obama not as a self-assured, standard-issue bureaucrat, but as an alert and troubled thinker. Ms. Sherald’s image of Mrs. Obama overemphasizes an element of couturial spectacle, but also projects a rock-solid cool.


It doesn’t take #BlackLivesMatter consciousness to see the significance of this racial lineup within the national story as told by the Portrait Gallery. Some of the earliest presidents represented — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson — were slaveholders; Mrs. Obama’s great-great grandparents were slaves. And today we’re seeing more and more evidence that the social gains of the civil rights, and Black Power, and Obama eras are, with a vengeance, being rolled back.

On several levels, then, the Obama portraits stand out in this institutional context, though given the tone of bland propriety that prevails in the museum’s long-term “America’s Presidents” display — where Mr. Obama’s (though not Mrs. Obama’s) portrait hangs — standing out is not all that hard to do.

The National Portrait Gallery collection isn’t old. It was created by an Act of Congress in 1962 and opened to the public in 1968. (The Obama unveiling is billed as part of its 50th birthday celebrations.) By the time it began collecting, many chief executive portraits of note were already housed elsewhere. (The collection of first lady portraits is still incomplete; commissioning new ones started only in 2006.)

There are, for sure, outstanding things, one being Gilbert Stuart’s so-called “Lansdowne” Portrait” of George Washington from 1796, a full-length likeness packed with executive paraphernalia: papers to be signed, multiple quill pens, a sword, and an Imperial Roman-style chair. Even the clothes are an 18th-century version of current POTUS style: basic black suit and fat tie. As for Washington, he stands blank-faced, one arm extended, like a tenor taking a dignified bow.

Uninflected dignity was the attitude of choice for well over a century, with a few breaks. In an 1836 portrait, Andrew Jackson, a demonstrative bully, sports a floor-length, red-silk-lined Dracula cloak and a kind of topiary bouffant. (A picture of Jackson, one of President Trump’s populist heroes, hangs in the Oval Office.) Abraham Lincoln, seen in several likenesses, is exceptional for looking as if he may actually have weighty matters on his mind. Most of the portraits that precede and follow his are pure P.R.

This continues well into the 20th century. In a 1980 painting Jimmy Carter trades a black suit for a beige one. How revolutionary is that? And there’s a Casual Fridays vogue: Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both go tieless for it. Under the circumstances, Elaine de Kooning’s 1963 portrait of John F. Kennedy, a fanfare of green and blue strokes, hits like a boost of adrenaline. Rousing too, though not in a good way, is a big head shot image of Bill Clinton by the artist Chuck Close. Using his signature mosaic-like painting technique, Mr. Close turns the 42nd president into a pixelated clown.

Mr. Obama has much better luck with his similarly high-profile portraitist. Mr. Wiley, born in Los Angeles in 1977, gained a following in the early 2000s with his crisp, glossy, life-size paintings of young African-American men dressed in hip-hop styles, but depicted in the old-master manner of European royal portraits. More recently he has expanded his repertoire to include female subjects, as well as models from Brazil, India, Nigeria and Senegal, creating the collective image of a global black aristocracy.

In an imposingly scaled painting — just over seven feet tall — the artist presents Mr. Obama dressed in the regulation black suit and an open-necked white shirt, and seated on a vaguely thronelike chair not so different from the one seen in Stuart’s Washington portrait. But art historical references stop there. So do tonal echoes of past portraits. Whereas Mr. Obama’s predecessors are, to the man, shown expressionless and composed, Mr. Obama sits tensely forward, frowning, elbows on his knees, arms crossed, as if listening hard. No smiles, no Mr. Nice Guy. He’s still troubleshooting, still in the game.

His engaged and assertive demeanor contradicts — and cosmetically corrects — the impression he often made in office of being philosophically detached from what was going on around him. At some level, all portraits are propaganda, political or personal. And what makes this one distinctive is the personal part. Mr. Wiley has set Mr. Obama against — really embedded him in — a bower of what looks like ground cover. From the greenery sprout flowers that have symbolic meaning for the sitter. African blue lilies represent Kenya, his father’s birthplace; jasmine stands for Hawaii, where Mr. Obama himself was born; chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago, reference the city where his political career began, and where he met his wife.

Mrs. Obama’s choice of Ms. Sherald as an artist was an enterprising one. Ms. Sherald, who was born in Columbus, Ga., in 1973 and lives in Baltimore, is just beginning to move into the national spotlight after putting her career on hold for some years to deal with a family health crisis, and one of her own. (She had a heart transplant at 39.) Production-wise, she and Mr. Wiley operate quite differently. He runs the equivalent of a multinational art factory, with assistants churning out work. Ms. Sherald, who until a few years ago made her living waiting tables, oversees a studio staff of one, herself.

At the same time, they have much in common. Both focused early on African-American portraiture precisely because it is so little represented in Western art history. And both tend to blend fact and fiction. Mr. Wiley, with photo-realistic precision, casts actual people in fantastically heroic roles. (He modifies his heroizing in the case of Mr. Obama, but it’s still there.) Ms. Sherald also starts with realism, but softens and abstracts it. She gives all her figures gray-toned skin — a color with ambiguous racial associations — and reduces bodies to geometric forms silhouetted against single-color fields.

She shows Mrs. Obama sitting against a field of light blue, wearing a spreading gown. The dress design, by Michelle Smith, is eye-teasingly complicated: mostly white interrupted by black Op Art-ish blips and patches of striped color suggestive of African textiles. The shape of the dress, rising pyramidally upward, mountain-like, feels as if it were the real subject of the portrait. Mrs. Obama’s face forms the composition’s peak, but could be almost anyone’s face, like a model’s face in a fashion spread. To be honest, I was anticipating — hoping for — a bolder, more incisive image of the strong-voiced person I imagine this former first lady to be.

And while I’m wishing, let me mention something more. Mr. Obama’s portrait will be installed, long-term, among those of his presidential peers, in a dedicated space on the second floor. Mrs. Obama’s will hang in a corridor reserved for temporary displays of new acquisitions — on the first floor. It will stay there until November, after which there’s no set-aside place for it to land.

If first men have an acknowledged showcase, first women — ladies or not — should too. Better, they should all be together, sharing space, offering a welcoming environment to, among others, a future first female president, and creating a lasting monument to #MeToo.


Portraits of Barack Obama and Michelle Obama
At the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington; 202-633-1000; npg.si.edu.

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