SOCHI – A massive upset had occurred with the defeat of a giant. Swiss snowboarder Iouri Podladtchikov, a bright star that has been behind Shaun White for years in the X Games finally saw victory ahead of him. Podladtchikov, 25 took home his first Olympic gold medal with Japanese duo Ayumu Hirano,15 and Taku Hiraoka, 18 taking silver and bronze at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park Tuesday night. After faltering in both runs, White failed to medal for the first time in three Olympic appearances finishing fourth.
In an event he was born to win, White lead after qualifications with a 95.75 with Hirano making a strong statement with a 92.25 sitting second. The Swiss snowboarder dubbed “I Pod” who was originally born in Russia, made his way to the finals atop the semis with an 87.50 while White’s stunning performance in his run helped him to save up for the big day.
Podladtchikov took his first run and made a good effort on a half-pipe that was not up to snuff with many of the competitors. He finished with an 88.50 that held him into third place. Hirano lead after the first run for the dozen competitors with a 90.75. He was the youngest of all snowboarders in the competition at 15 years of age.
White was last to come out in his first run with a set of tricks that completely fell apart. His switch double 1440 went off well until the landing caused him to fall on his hind quarters. He later crashed at the top of the pipe on his third trick that caused him to stop performing and settled with a 35.00. It was a moment never seen by anyone where White didn’t falter in any of the previous Olympics with much on the line as he was trying to repeat gold for a third time.
The young Japanese snowboarder could see a major victory and a more massive upset if White didn’t beat his score, let alone his first run. Before the moment came Podladtchikov took his second run putting up a double McTwist and the double cork 1440 that put the Swiss star back to the top with a 94.75 delivering every pressure in the world on the “Flying Tomato”. His teammate David Habluetzel took his last run and made a shocker as he moved into bronze position with a combination of 720’s that were all clean putting two Swiss athletes on the podium temporarily.
The Americans continued to have problems as Danny Davis fell on his second run putting him out of medaling with a 53.00. Hirano’s teammate took second place with a 92.25 giving him a chance to hold onto third or change the podium again. He took second with a 93.50 with Podladtchikov still in first with his nemesis going last in a chance to pull off a miracle. White knew what was at stake and has performed well under pressure before.
He began the final run with a massive 19 foot airtime to help with his set of aerials. White came off with a front side 1080 that went clean until déjà vu reappeared on the double McTwist. The trick came off perfectly until the landing where White barely touched the snow with his rear that some thought impossible to hold a landing in that fashion. His cab double cork 1440 came off mind-blowing until the landing where his fingers touched the snow once again. It came down to whether the judges would set aside the extreme minor problems with White’s performance or give the gold to Podladtchikov. “I’m disappointed,” White said. “I hate the fact I nailed it in practice, but it happens. It’s hard to be consistent.
White’s score sent a shockwave through Sochi scoring a 90.25 that was only good enough for fourth place giving I Pod the one chance to be in his own spotlight. “I’m about to faint. I haven’t seen the gold yet,” said Podladtchikov, after the results. “That’s why I don’t believe it.” White has won the X Games Superpipe from 2003-06, 08-13 with Podladtchikov finishing behind him twice.
The result comes as a completely shock to everyone including the gold medalist. “I saw videos of Shaun doing it really well,” I-Pod said. “I got bummed, said, ‘Damn, that’s my trick and he’s doing it better than me.’ Today, I guess I was doing it a little better.” While he basks in Olympic glory, the Flying Tomato will fly out of Russia empty-handed.