White McTwists and turns to a perfect gold

Published on by dallashollis

Shaun White of the United States reacts after winning the gold medal in the Snowboard Men's Halfpipe final. Photo: Getty Images AUSTRALIA'S Ben Mates wasn't all that keen on being asked about the great Shaun White after he had just qualified for the semi-finals of the men's half-pipe yesterday.''Shaun's Shaun,'' he said when asked if it was intimidating going up against the most famous athlete at these Games.Shaun is Shaun but Shaun is also much more than that. Shaun is snowboarding. Tiger Woods was once the measure for a man who embodied his entire sport. White has long been such a figure to the extreme alpine set. Yesterday, for a little while at least, he crossed over into something else. Advertisement: Story continues below He makes about $10 million a year, gets around in a Ramones-style black leather jacket and has pioneered the death-defying ''double cork'' moves that have revolutionised the sport in the past two years, making it much more exciting and, a corollary, more dangerous. His sponsor Red Bull built a $600,000 secret half-pipe in Colorado for him to practise on, accessible only by helicopter.His flaming, long locks have earned the redhead a name he hates - the flying tomato. Like each of his exquisite landings, it has stuck.Yesterday, he sent his sport to yet another level, smashing the field on his first run in the Olympic final with a pair of double corks to register a winning score of 46.8. Then, on his victory lap, Moncler jakke he went further, unveiling the long-rumoured double McTwist 1260, a creation up there with the unicorn and the coming Richmond premiership in the annals of popular mythology.''I just felt like I didn't want to come all the way to Vancouver not to pull out the big guns,'' he said afterwards. ''I put down the tricks I've worked so hard on. It was the savvy thing to do. Saucy. Keep it weird.''Many had wondered if the new trick might be seen here. If the McTwist really existed at all. They shouldn't have. Before starting his last White raised both arms to the crowd like Babe Ruth pointing out of the ground before hitting a homer. His coach said to him: ''Don't do this unless you're gunna stomp it.''He soared improbably high, always his trademark, and launched on the final jump of his run into the trick, which featured two somersaults combined improbably with three-and-a-half rotations. He landed and threw both arms in the air again, re-confirming rather than celebrating his own greatness. He had stomped it. The crowd went insane.In this bilingual nation the French term for the half-pipe, flashed up on the screen regularly, was ''demi-lune''. Presumably that makes the 25-year-old Californian a demi-god.None of his rivals was near him, though minor medals were handed out to Finn Peetu Piiroinen and American Scott Lago. He had Usain Bolted them. So many would-be contenders crashed out trying for tricks that were just beyond their limits. Tricks he did. In trying to beat him, they beat themselves. The best of the best can do that to you.Now White has back-to-back Olympic gold to add to his three X-Games gold medals. The double McTwist - named by White - became within minutes the No. 1 Twitter topic in the US. Such is his constituency.White was asked what would he do next: ''Sleep, and then take on the world.''For a sport born out of skateboarding and where alternative street cred is still important, not everyone in the field is a fan of the Californian's crossover celebrity, his brash confidence and his aloofness.Australian Scotty James - seemingly the happiest 15-year-old in the northern hemisphere yesterday after finishing 21st at his maiden Games - represented the mood. ''Shaun sort of keeps to himself, I don't know if I should say that,'' James said. ''He has said hello to me but he hasn't really given me any inspirational words.''The other Australian, Mates, made the semi-finals and finished 17th, landing a clear run but featuring the type of tricks that belong in the pre-White era. Afterwards he admitted that the double cork had now become the standard.''I had to pay and fund everything myself,'' he said. ''I didn't have any national team support. You have to have the facilities and have the funding to ride at good pipes, I always found myself working 40-hour weeks.''It had crossed his mind to go for a bigger trick but he did not try. ''With these double corks you are putting your life on the line, it's quite a dangerous trick if you haven't trained it … I decided to land on my feet.''James - competing with a plaster cast on his fractured wrist after a training mishap on Tuesday - could not make it out of the qualifying round. Good judges are salivating, though, over what the Australian might accomplish in four years.''It was pretty awesome,'' he said of his first Olympic experience. ''It's special for me because my whole family is watching. I just was stoked to land a run.''The 15-year-old said he had simplified his tricks - and omitted a planned double cork - because of the wrist injury. It limited his score. ''I'm a little upset that I didn't get to do what I wanted to do,'' he said. ''But I'm still happy.''

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