Iouri Podladtchikov puts down a supreme run for Olympic Halfpipe gold, Ayumu Hirano stomps silver
Enduring what can only be described as sub-par halfpipe conditions, the men’s Olympic Halfpipe finals went off under the bright lights of Sochi, with Swiss rider Iouri Podladtchikov dominating the competition and taking gold.
After a disappointing showing in qualifiers, Iouri rallied during semifinals, taking first place with his opening run and setting the pace for the rest of the field. Dropping into finals, the riders battled to put down their best runs in a pipe that has repeatedly been called ‘slushy,’ ‘crappy,’ and ‘dangerous.’ The contest was littered with falls, with all three US riders — Greg Bretz, Danny Davis and Shaun White — unable to stomp their runs. While Bretz and Davis went down on both runs, White did manage to land his second run, though a hand-drag and flat-bottom squat landing left him hanging off of the podium in 4th place.
Ayumu Hirano— who is only 15, by the way— was boosting, laying down two clean runs and leading the field after his first turn in the pipe. His lead was only temporary, however, as Iouri swooped in on his second run and landed a highly anticipated double McTwist 1260- YOLO flip (a double cork 1440) combo, a supreme showing that planted him at the top of the leader board.
Still to drop, however, was Shaun White, the final rider of the contest and the US’s last chance to usurp Podladtchikov’s throne. White went huge throughout his run, but the aforementioned hand-drag and hard flat-bottom landing kept him from earning a spot on the podium. He came in fourth, a finish that must have been disappointing to a rider going for his third consecutive gold.
Hirano’s compatriot Taku Hiraoka helped Japan earn its second medal of the night, bumped by Hirano into third place by just 1.25 points. For the first time ever, the American flag was absent from the podium, with Iouri Podladtchikov’s flawless style and impressive amplitude taking center stage.
Many riders, and viewers, were disappointed by the slushy, bumpy conditions of the Olympic pipe, and noted that the contest in no way represented the true talent of the snowboardings slashing it tonight. Anyone would be hard-pressed, however, to deny that Podladtchikov, Hirano, and Hiraoka are fully deserving of their respective medals, as riders who consistently put down podium runs in contests throughout the season.
1. Iouri Podladtchikov (SUI), 94.75
2. Ayumu Hirano (JPN), 93.50
3. Taku Hiraoka (JPN), 92.25
4. Shaun White (USA), 90.25
5. David Habluetzel (SUI), 88.50
6. Yiwei Zhang (CHN), 87.25
7. Wancheng Shi (CHN), 81.00
8. Tim-Kevin Ravnjak (SLO), 72.25
9. Kent Callister (AUS), 68.50
10. Danny Davis (USA), 53.00
11. Christian Haller (SUI), 51.50
12. Greg Bretz (USA), 26.50
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