White wins USA’s 100th winter gold, gets media grilling
Pyeongchang, South Korea – Shaun White stared down the halfpipe before his final Olympic run and had no doubt what would happen next.
“I honestly knew I had it,” White said. “I knew I had to put it down.”
Put it down he did, soaring and spinning Wednesday through a half-dozen near flawless tricks – including back-to-back 1440s for the first time in his life – en route to his record third halfpipe gold medal.
White won with a score of 97.75 and wept at the bottom of the halfpipe. It marked White’s return to the top of the sport after a disappointing fourth-place finish at the 2014 Sochi Games.
The snowboarding great received heaps of praise for his gutsy run, but also criticism on social media and questions in a news conference about a sexual misconduct lawsuit filed against him in 2016. White dismissed the allegations as “gossip” and declined to address the matter further.
White’s gold was also the 100th overall for the United States in the Winter Olympics – all four American golds this year have been won by snowboarders.
The U.S. might have gotten gold No. 101, but Mikaela Shiffrin’s bid for multiple medals at the Pyeongchang Olympics was delayed once again when the women’s slalom was postponed because of strong winds. It’s the third time in four days an Alpine skiing race was put on hold because gusts made it too dangerous for competition.
The women’s individual biathlon was also postponed because of wind, and the weather also led officials to evacuate the Olympic Park in the coastal city of Gangneung.
In figure skating, the Chinese duo of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong are in first place after the pairs short program. Russian skaters Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov were a close second to the Chinese – .71 points behind. Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were third. Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim of the United States struggled and were in 14th place.
White has apologized after referring to a sexual misconduct lawsuit filed against him in 2016 as “gossip” during a news conference following his historic gold medal in the men’s halfpipe.
White issued the apology on NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday. He said he used “a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject” and he’s “truly sorry.”
The snowboarder’s post-gold news conference got contentious when reporters questioned him about the lawsuit. Lena Zawaideh, a former drummer in his band, claimed in the lawsuit White sexually harassed her, forced her to watch pornography and refused to pay her after she was fired. The suit was settled last spring.
White was asked if the allegations might tarnish his reputation.
“I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip and stuff,” he said. “I don’t think so.”
Reporters attempted to follow up about the lawsuit, but U.S. Snowboarding and Freeskiing event director Nick Alexakos shut them down.
This latest postponement for Shiffrin could complicate her effort to enter up to five individual events, as she’ll now have less time to rest and prepare between them. She’ll no longer get full days off between each race if she tries to do them all and would have to compete Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week to make that happen.
In Gangneung, an announcement in Korean and English advised fans to go inside for safety in the afternoon. Volunteers also used bullhorns to tell fans to seek shelter. Many were queued up to go inside the Samsung building near the hockey arena.
Winds were blowing steadily and rattled the giant tent anchored with metal beams in Gangneung.
On the board
The joint Korean women’s hockey team finally scored its first goal of the Olympics, courtesy of a pair of Americans.
Randi Heesoo Griffin scored at 9:31 of the second period on the Koreans’ 33rd shot of the Olympics in their third game. She grew up in Cary, North Carolina, and her mother is from South Korea.
Griffin was set up for the goal by Marissa Brandt, who now lives in a suburb of the Twin Cities in Minnesota and who is playing for the country where she was born. Her birth name is Park Yoonjung, the name she uses on the back of her Korean team jersey.
Griffin’s goal led to an eruption from the fans filling Kwandong Hockey Center. Better yet, the goal pulled the combined Korean team within 2-1 of Japan – South Korea’s biggest Asian rival.
Hello and goodbye
Harley Windsor became the first indigenous Australian to compete at the Winter Olympics when the pairs skater joined teammate Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya on the ice for their short program.
Windsor and his Russian-born partner were among the first pairs on the ice, and their total of 61.55 points was just off their season’s best. The duo was just shy of making the cut for Thursday’s free skate, though.
Windsor said he started to “feel a bit nervous” the night before competing, but he was happy with the performance. Both of the 21-year-old Windsor’s parents have Australian Aboriginal roots, and his mother Josie was cheering him on from the stands.
* Eric Frenzel of Germany won gold in Nordic combined while Akito Watabe of Japan earned silver and Lukas Klapfer of Austria took bronze. Frenzel erased 38 seconds after the ski jumping stage and surged ahead of Watabe on the last uphill of the 10-kilometer cross-country race to defend his title in the normal hill event.
* Jorien ter Mors of the Netherlands won the women’s 1,000-meter speedskating event. Japan earned both silver and bronze after Nao Kodaira finished second and Miho Takagi was third.
* Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt of Germany won their second consecutive Olympic doubles luge gold medal. Wendl and Arlt finished their two runs in 1 minute, 31.697 seconds. They’re the first German team to win two straight doubles golds since Hans Rinn and Norbert Hahn in 1976 and 1980.
The Austrian team of Peter Penz and Georg Fischler was second, less than one-tenth of a second off the winning time. Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken of Germany took third.