Shaun White is golden once again, and his place among the all-time great U.S. Olympians is secure.
White, who was trailing after two runs, won his third Olympic gold in the halfpipe with a score of 97.75 on a make-or-break final run. Japan's Ayumu Hirano took home the silver and Australia's Scotty James won bronze.
In the finals of what might be his last Olympics, White came out firing. On his first run, White, who went last because he had the highest score in qualifying, put together back-to-back 1260's en route to a 94.25 which saw him take the lead over James, who posted a 92.00 on his opening effort. After successfully completing that first run, a visibly pumped up White took off and threw his helmet into the crowd.
Hirano then applied the pressure by putting together a flawless second run that featured back-to-back 1440's—first a frontside double cork 1440, then a cab double cork 1440—to score 95.25. White, who knew he had to put together difficult combinations to top Hirano's score, then fell on his second run to leave himself one last chance at the gold.
White delivered when it mattered most. On his final run, he put together for his first time in competition back-to-back 1440's—which he needed to match Hirano—and back-to-back 1260's to boot. After a tense wait to see his score, White let out a scream when the announcer called out his 97.75 then dropped to his knees in tears.
White, 31, won this event at Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010 but finished fourth in Sochi 2014. He has spoken at length about how bitterly disappointed he was to not medal four years ago, when he struggled to land even one 1440 cleanly. In PyeongChang, he landed two, back-to-back, in an incredibly high-pressure situation.
White came into the final with some momentum—he qualified for the Olympics with a perfect 100 score at the U.S. Grand Prix in Snowmass, Co. in January and sent a message to the rest of the field in PyeongChang with a near-perfect qualifying run (98.5).
White has now won half of the six Olympic golds ever given out in halfpipe, as the event only made its debut at the 1998 Games in Nagano.
American Ben Ferguson, 23, put together a strong final run but could not edge James to get on the podium. He finished fourth with a score of 90.25.
American snowboarders are now a perfect four-for-four in the freestyle snowboarding events. Seventeen-year-old Red Gerard took home the gold in men's slopestyle, and Chloe Kim, also 17, dazzled with a dominant performance en route to the gold in the women's halfpipe. Jamie Andersen weathered the conditions to win gold in a women's slopestyle competition that was marred by high winds.
White's gold was the U.S.'s 100th gold medal in Winter Olympics history, and White becomes the first American man to win the same event at three different Olympics. The only other American to equal that feat is speed skater Bonnie Blair, who won the 500m in 1988, 1992 and 1994.