Gossip

Backstage at the Big Show: Halfpipe Gossip from the 2018 Winter Games


Words: Ed Leigh

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So what’s really been going on at the games? Of course you know all of the headlines, and you know who the medalists are. But with three days under our belts and men’s halfpipe about to be decided, what’s actually been going on behind the scenes?

Well, first and foremost, the biggest name in the game is dancing to a different tune. Shaun White still doesn’t reside in the Olympic Village and he brings his own sizable entourage to the games. But A-list treatment aside, there is no denying that the new Shaun White, the Shaun we have seen on a charm offensive since he returned to competitive riding in 2016, has gone through the gears in PyeongChang.

Watch Shaun White’s top qualifying run here:

Is it the fact that he is in danger of being upstaged by the new girl in town? Certainly Chloe Kim pulled as many, if not more, journalists to her corner of the USA halfpipe press conference. Is it the fact that he knows his days of being number one are numbered, or could it be that he has realized that pressing the flesh is good business? Personally, I think it is simply that he has rediscovered the joy in his riding. Well, maybe that should read competing. Either way, he is now hyper-aware that he is almost certainly enjoying what will be his last games, so Shaun is soaking up every second. Whether it’s walking back to the spectators who call his name for selfies, or spending over an hour in the media pit after his qualifying run, Shaun is most certainly a changed man, and right now I think this new leaf is a sure ticket to a third and final gold.

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Chloe Kim. Photo: Mark Clavin

At the other end of the spectrum Scotty James is desperately trying to control is frustration with being in the best form of his life and yet remaining impotent in the face of Shaun’s incredible talent. The Australian could not hide his contempt for the judges in Snowmass when they offered up a perfect 100 three weeks ago and unleashed his fury on the judges booth post-contest. After qualifiers yesterday the assembled press were privy to a thunderous fly-by as he left the contest arena. Whether this anger can be harnessed and channeled into a winning run is a question that will wait to be answered until 10.30am local time on Valentines Day.

Photo evidence that Ayumu Hirano might not be actually affected by gravity. PHOTO: Mark Clavin

The fact remains that the only person with anything on Shaun is Ayumu with his back to back 1440s. So I put it to him at the aforementioned pipe press conference. Had the brutal qualification process robbed every rider of their secrets? Have we seen his best run? The answer was an emphatic no.

Let the Valentines Day massacre commence.

Read more of our 2018 Olympic coverage here.

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