Americans come up empty in half-pipe | SteamboatToday.com

Americans come up empty in half-pipe

Luke Graham

Iouri Podladtchikov throws his hands up after winning a gold medal in the men's snowboard half-pipe Tuesday, upsetting heavy American favorite Shaun White.

— The snowboarding world is changing.

In a sport long owned by the Americans, the men's half-pipe Tuesday at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Center in Krasnaya Poylyana, Russia, had a completely international flair.

Members of the host nation didn't seem to mind. And, in a sense, neither did some of the riders.

For the first time in history, an American didn't medal in the men's half-pipe at the Olympic Games.

And for the first time in two Olympics, a name other than Shaun White stood on top of the podium.

Switzerland's Iouri Podladtchikov, known as I-Pod, won the gold with a slick finals run that included the YOLO — a 1,440 and the trick of the night.

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"The goal was to be able to ride," I-Pod said. "It was challenging for all of us. Shaun was ahead as usual. I was barely making the semifinal, never mind gold. It went so fast, and it all happened in one day."

Japanese riders Ayumu Hirano and Taku Hiraoka won the silver and bronze medals.

White, the sudden goat of these games, was fourth.

It was a rough day all around for the Americans. After bickering about the state of the pipe going into Tuesday's finals, the Americans struggled mightily in finals.

America's other two finals riders, Danny Davis and Greg Bretz, each fell in both of their runs.

America's fourth rider, Taylor Gold, didn't make it out of the semifinals.

White fell in his first run and was the last to go in the second run of the finals. He had two near-falls on his final run and eventually finished fourth.

"Fourth was a gift, man," Davis said about White's run.

Davis, who was the most critical of the pipe going into the event, apologized to America afterward, a smile across his face.

He didn't sound defeated, however. Rather, he sounded more excited for the sport.

Since 1998, the United States has won eight of the possible 12 medals in men's half-pipe.

"Shaun's, don't get me wrong, one of the most talented, one of the best riders there are," Davis said. "But there are guys who are just as good, if not better, and today, Iouri was the best rider."

For White, who breezed past the media in the mixed zone after the event, the Olympics haven't been a pet to his former red mane.

He dropped out of the slope-style event earlier, causing many competitors to question whether he was afraid of losing.

On Tuesday, he couldn't put together that key run. After going to Russia with hopes of leaving with a pair of medals, White returns home with none.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham

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