Shaun White says Beijing Olympics will be final competition | Olympic Games
By JAKE SEINER – AP Sportswriter
BEIJING (AP) — The Flying Tomato wants this to be its last liftoff.
Three-time snowboarding gold medalist Shaun White made it clear on Saturday that the Beijing Games would not just be his last Olympics, the 35-year-old American plans to retire of the sport he put on the international map after the halfpipe medal round next week.
“In my mind, I’ve decided this will be my last competition,” he said.
White is a transcendent force for snowboarding, its most recognizable face in nearly two decades – and not just because of the mop of red hair that inspired its nickname.
Those locks have since been cut, and White is now a veteran sports statesman, hobbling into his fifth Olympics after a season marred by an ankle injury, a bout with COVID-19, an unplanned late trip to Switzerland. to secure his Olympic spot and, most recently, a training plan that was scrapped while in Colorado in January.
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“I kind of pinch myself, being lucky to still be here at that age,” he said in a thoughtful 45-minute press conference.
White won gold in her Olympic debut in 2006, only the third time halfpipe snowboarding has taken place at the Winter Games. The sport exploded in popularity with him at the forefront, and he won gold again in 2010 and 2018. He also has 15 X-Games gold medals – 13 in snowboarding and two in skateboarding.
White will hardly be a favorite for a fourth halfpipe gold medal when the finals take place on Friday. Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, who finished second to White in 2018, became the first to land a triple cork in competition in December, and the three-flip trick is unlikely to be in White’s race.
White said he was swinging between trying to enjoy every moment of the last great competitive week of his life and knowing there was work to be done when the halfpipe opens for practice on Sunday.
He said he decided he was ready to get it over with during the build-up to the Beijing Games, a moment that crystallized when he got lost on a mountain during a hard training stoppage in Austria in November.
“A sad and surreal moment,” he said. “But happy too. I kind of thought about things that I’ve done and watched the sun go down and I was like, ‘Wow, next time I’m here I won’t be stressed learning stuff or worrying about something in competition.”
Norway is sailing to a second straight turn atop the Winter Games medal tally after a golden start.
Cross-country skier Therese Johaug won the first gold medal of the Beijing Olympics in the women’s 15-kilometre skiathlon, and Johannes Thingnes Boe beat her French and Russian rivals in the last meters of the mixed relay to give Norway gold in the first biathlon race.
Johaug battled the wind and freezing temperatures to ski away from a chasing group of four. She has 10 world championship titles but had never won an individual Olympic gold medal before.
Boe, France’s Quentin Fillon Maillet and Team Russia’s Eduard Latypov left the field close together after the final round of shooting and raced for position until the home stretch, when Boe sprinted for the win.
Norway, who entered the relay as World Cup leaders, also got strong performances from Marte Olsbu Roeiseland and Tarjei Boe. But they trailed early in the race when Tiril Eckhoff struggled on the beach.
China won its first Beijing Games gold medal in the short track speed skating mixed team relay in the event’s Olympic debut.
Wu Dajing edged Pietro Sighel of Italy by 0.016 seconds – or half a skate blade – to win gold. Hungary won bronze.
Qu Chunyu, Fan Kexin and Ren Ziwei joined Wu for the historic victory. The small number of Chinese fans at the Capital Indoor Arena cheered and waved small flags.
China was the favorite for the gold medal, having led the World Cup standings this season.
Irene Schouten gave the mighty Dutchman a gold medal in the first speed skating event of the Beijing Games, breaking a 20-year-old Olympic record in the women’s 3,000 metres.
Skating in the last of 10 pairs, Schouten pulled off a blazing final lap to post a winning time of 3 minutes, 56.93 seconds. This beat the previous Olympic mark of 3:57.70, set by Germany’s Claudia Pechstein at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.
At the end of the book appropriate to the event, Pechstein skated in the opening pair to become the oldest female athlete in Olympic history at 49. The German finished last, more than 20 seconds behind the winner.
Walter Wallberg of Sweden upset ‘The King’ to win gold in the men’s moguls event.
Wallberg looked almost shocked when his score of 83.23 was posted on the board, edging out defending Olympic champion Mikael Kingsbury of Canada on a freezing night. Wallberg picked up points for his speed on Kingsbury’s fluid and technical skiing style, whose nickname is the ‘king of the moguls’.
It was Wallberg’s first major victory. The 21-year-old Swede has never even won a World Cup event.
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