Hirano wins Olympic gold in halfpipe; White 4th of last matches | Sports News

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By PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Reporter

ZHANGJIAKOU, China (AP) — Shaun White had a front-row seat to what the next generation can do after pushing the boundaries of snowboarding for more than a decade.

In White’s farewell performance on Friday, Japan’s Ayumu Hirano won an elusive Olympic gold medal in the halfpipe with his own boundary-pushing final run.

There was no doubt about the winner after Hirano’s electric performance as the last rider to go. His run included a complex and unprecedented series of flips and spins that lifted a progression-obsessed sport to new heights. Hirano’s score of 96 reflected that, and the two-time Olympic silver medalist passed Scotty James of Australia, whose best score in the three-set final was 92.50.

Jan Scherrer of Switzerland won bronze.

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White finished in fourth place as he fell in the final run of a career that saw the American star win three Olympic titles. He raised his glasses and waved to the crowd as he descended the halfpipe. He was in tears as the sparse crowd bid farewell to the 35-year-old runner and his comrades lined up to hug him.

“It’s just an emotional day for me,” White said. “I would have liked to do better, but I did what I could. I am proud.”

The stage was set for a controversy after round two. James took the lead with his second attempt, which scored a 92.50. Hirano followed with a “you-saw-it” run that included a triple cork, the newest and one of the toughest tricks in the halfpipe right now. But the judges gave her a 91.75, which drew boos from the crowd and sent social media buzzing.

“I know when I’ve seen the best run ever on a halfpipe. …It’s a travesty of being completely honest with you. I’m furious,” said NBC snowboarding analyst Todd Richards. “What’s the point of doing the triple cork, the most dangerous of dangerous tricks if you don’t get rewarded?”

Hirano, 23, came out and did an even better version of his run. This time he was rewarded.

“Justice,” Richards said.

First run leader Taylor Gold of the United States was fifth.

The competition belonged to Hirano. But the moment was also a chance for White to say so long to a sport he had been hovering over for so long. He said before the start of the Beijing Games that this would be his last hurray. White’s resume speaks for itself: Olympic gold in 2006 and his defense four years later. He also won in 2018, where he scored a straight 1,440 for the first time in his life to hold off Hirano.

It’s been tough preparation for White, who has been slowed by testing positive for COVID-19, injuries and training issues. But he looked back at his best – under pressure too – when he qualified for the final in his last race on Wednesday.

White carried it to the final and on his second run he performed his patented Double McTwist 1260 and then a frontside 1260 at the end.

“Shaun White’s legacy speaks for itself,” said James, who wore his trademark red boxing gloves in the final (he considers the contests a boxing match). “He’s an incredible competitor and I think he’s just universally well respected as an athlete.”

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