After a fall, Shaun White stomps his way into Olympic halfpipe final; Kim also in
The Associated Press
ZHANGJIAKOU, China — After falling on his first attempt Wednesday, Shaun White hammered down a pressure-packed halfpipe qualifying run to make it through to the medal round of his fifth and final Olympics.
The three-time gold medalist fell on his signature trick on his first run — the Double McTwist 1260 — and was mired in 19th place. Each rider gets two tries and only their best score counts. The top 12 advance to Friday’s final. White ended up in fourth place.
After a 50-minute wait following his fall, White returned to the top of the pipe and nailed the same run he’d tried before.
He stomped every landing and at the bottom tore off his goggles and let out a “Yeahhhh.” He qualified behind two-time silver medalist Ayumu Hirano, 2018 bronze medalist Scotty James and Hirano’s Japanese teammate, Ruka Hirano.
“I can’t tell you the relief I felt off that last hit,” White said. “It was just the thrill and excitement to be going to finals.”
Chloe Kim cheered White when he reached the bottom. She was on hand at the halfpipe after cruising through her own, far less dramatic qualifying round. She was perfect through her first trip down the halfpipe and finished in first place. In her second run, she fell while trying a trick she’d never attempted before, a switch backside 720.
“Oh, well,” she said at the bottom, and playfully stuck out her tongue while she waited for a score that didn’t matter.
Mitsuki Ono of Japan was second in qualifying a day after appearing to be bothered by a hip ailment in training and in some discomfort. Cai Xuetong of China had the third-best score in qualifying, with Queralt Castellet of Spain also in the mix.
The biggest surprise was the performance of American Maddie Mastro, who finished just outside of the top 12 that advanced to Thursday’s final. She had been in the last spot but was bumped out by one of the final riders, Elizabeth Hosking of Canada.
“I was not really stoked on that (second run),” Mastro said. “I did my first three hits and they went well and the rest of the run, I don’t know what happened. It just didn’t happen but that’s OK — on to the next.”
White’s big save prevented another setback on what has become a rough Olympics on the mountain for the United States. Hours earlier, Mikaela Shiffrin skidded out of her slalom run and made it 0 for 2 on the Alpine hill. Defending slopestyle champions Jamie Anderson and Red Gerard both failed to make the podium this time.
White came to Beijing after a bout with COVID-19, an ankle injury, a longer-than-expected journey through Olympic qualifying and a number of changes to his training schedule. But he made it to China with a cautious sense of optimism.
He is not considered a favorite and said he had a run he wanted to put down. Thanks to his clutch run in qualifying, he’ll get that chance.