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Tags: beijing | olympics | shaun white | snowboarding | retirement | winter games

Snowboard Legend Shaun White Retiring After Olympics

shaun white is draped in the american flag
Shaun White (Dreamstime)

Saturday, 05 February 2022 10:04 AM EST

This really is it for Shaun White.

The three-time gold medalist made it clear, not only will the Beijing Games be his last Olympics, they will mark his final contest, too.

During a reflective, sometimes emotional news conference Saturday, not far from the halfpipe where he'll take his last competitive ride, the 35-year-old said that, yes, he'll be hanging 'em up for good after the medal round next week.

"In my mind, I've decided this will be my last competition," he said.

It is a decision that has been building since a rough-and-tumble training stop in Austria in November. He was dealing with nagging remnants from injuries to his knee ... and back ... and ankle. He got lost on the mountain with the sun going down. It was one of those rare times when snowboarding didn't feel fun anymore.

"A sad and surreal moment," he called it. "But joyous, as well. I kind of reflected on things I've done and looked at the sun going down and went, ‘Wow, next time I'm here, I won't be stressed about learning tricks or worried about some competition thing.'"

White traditionally has taken a break for a season, sometimes two seasons, in the aftermath of an Olympics, so to hear him say he'd be checking out for good after Beijing was not a big shock. Still, it's not uncommon for some of the greats to make a curtain call. Usain Bolt, for example, competed in the 2017 world championships the year after going 3 for 3 in the Olympic sprints for the third consecutive time.

But White will not be going that route.

He is soaking in every moment on this fifth trip to the Games, and over his 45-minute session with the media, he fielded an equal number of questions about his past as about what's to come over the next seven days and beyond.

"I have some runs in my head that I'd like to do," he said. "And it's all about visualizing and making that happen the ‘day of.'"

Though he refused to take it off the table, those runs probably will not include a triple cork — the three-flip trick that Ayumu Hirano of Japan has landed twice in competition this season, but has not won with, because he could not link another trick to it.

Back in 2013, White worked on that trick for a time. Then, a different jump — the double cork 1440 — became the hottest thing in the halfpipe, so he abandoned the triple to work on that. The rest is history: The 1440 was not enough for him to win in Sochi, but four years ago in Pyeongchang, he linked two of them back to back and took his third gold medal.

"I'd never done that combination of tricks before and just put it down to win," White said. "I mean, it's a legacy performance."

His legacy goes well beyond that.

By making a choice that was unpopular in many circles — embracing competition, and embracing the Olympics — he took the entire sport with him and made the whole endeavor more mass-marketable, in large part because every sport needs a star.

He also set the bar in a game that treasures progression above all else. In 2006, he was the first man to land back-to-back 1080s in a contest. In 2010, he landed his patented Double McTwist 1260 — "The Tomahawk," he calls it — in a victory lap in Vancouver; it's a trick that's still relevant today.

Though others started landing the 1440 and linking two together before him, White did it best — and did it when the stakes were the highest.

But when asked what would suffice as a "good" Olympics this time around, he wasn't talking about 1440s or triple corks or gold medals.

This has been a rough season for him — including an ankle injury, a bout with COVID-19, a late unscheduled trip to Switzerland to secure his Olympic spot and, most recently, a training plan that got thrown off schedule during his stay in Colorado in January.

"I approach every competition as, you've got to be content with your own riding," White said. "And as long as you can go out there and put down your best, and lay it out there, then you can walk away, and in your mind, be good with that."

White says he's toggling between trying to enjoy every moment of the last big contest week of his life and knowing there is work to do when the halfpipe opens for training Sunday.

"I'm sort of pinching myself, with how lucky I am to still be here at this age," he said.

But it's hard not to look back. He told about how when he was a kid, everything he did, day in and day out, was wrapped around snowboarding. "I don't know how many kids out there aspire to be a cowboy and then really get to be a cowboy," he said.

Asked what headline he would stamp on his career, he said he looks back at the kid he once was and thinks the perfect thing to say to him would be: "We did it!'"

China Wins First Gold

China has won its first gold of the Beijing Games, emerging victorious in the mixed team relay at short track speedskating in the event's Olympic debut.

Wu Dajing edged Italy's Pietro Sighel by .016 seconds. That's half a skate blade. Hungary earned bronze Saturday night.

Qu Chunyu, Fan Kexin and Ren Ziwei joined Wu for the historic victory. The small number of Chinese fans at Capital Indoor Arena cheered and waved tiny flags.

The results were delayed while the referee reviewed the race. Canada was penalized for pushing from behind and causing contact with Hungary.

China was the favorite coming in, having led the World Cup standings this season.

Swede Upsets Canadian Favorite in Moguls

Walter Wallberg of Sweden has dethroned the so-called King of Moguls to take home the gold in the freestyle skiing men's moguls.

The Swede looked almost in shock when his score of 83.23 flashed on the scoreboard, edging that of defending Olympic champion Mikael Kingsbury of Canada late Saturday night. Wallberg picked up points for his speed over the smooth and technical skiing style of Kingsbury, who ended up with silver.

Ikuma Horishima of Japan took home the bronze.

Wallberg's surprise victory interrupts the men's moguls dominance of Team Canada, which had won the event in the last three Winter Games. This was his first major victory. The 21-year-old has never even won a World Cup event.

Slovenia Wins Women's Ski Jumping Gold

Slovenia's Ursa Bogataj has taken Olympic gold in women's ski jumping, floating 100 meters (328 feet) with 121 points on the final jump.

Katharina Althaus of Germany won silver for the second straight Olympics and Bogataj's fellow Slovenian Nika Kriznar took bronze. Japan's Sara Takanashi had entered as one of the favorites, but finished fourth.

Takanashi had won a record 61 World Cup events and earned bronze four years ago in South Korea. 2018's gold medalist, Maren Lundby, did not participate this year. The top-ranked women in World Cup standings, Austrian Marita Kramer, could not compete after testing positive for COVID-19.

This was the third time women had jumped for gold in the Winter Olympics.

The final round of women's ski jumping was delayed by 15 minutes, giving the athletes a brief break after the first round took more time than expected.

Germany's Katharina Althaus jumped 105.5 meters (346 feet) had 121.1 points in the first round. Althaus won silver at the 2018 Olympics and was aiming to hold off a trio of Slovenians: Ursa Bogataj, Nika Kriznar and Ema Klinec.

Japan's Sara Takanashi, the bronze medalist four years ago, was fifth after the first round.

Norway Wins Biathlon Mixed Relay

Norway has won gold in the biathlon mixed relay, beating France and the Russian team in the first biathlon event of the Beijing Olympics.

Johannes Thingnes Boe of Norway, Quentin Fillon Maillet of France and Eduard Latypov of the Russian team left the range close together after the last round of shooting and raced for position until the final stretch, when Boe sprinted for the win.

Norway, which came into the relay as the World Cup leader, also got strong performances from Marte Olsbu Roeiseland and Tarjei Boe. But they trailed early in the race when Tiril Eckhoff struggled.

Fillon Maillet was joined on the French team by Emilien Jacquelin, Julia Simon and Anais Chevalier-Bouchet. The Russian team of Uliana Nigmatullina, Kristina Reztsova, Alexander Loginov and Latypov were leading after the last hand-off, but France and Norway caught them on the range.

Dutch Win Speedskating Gold

Irene Schouten gave the mighty Dutch a gold in the first speedskating event of the Beijing Winter Games, breaking a 20-year-old Olympic record in the women's 3,000 meters.

Skating in the last of 10 pairs, Schouten turned in a blazing final lap to post a winning time of 3 minutes, 56.93 seconds.

That broke the previous Olympic mark of 3:57.70, set by Germany's Claudia Pechstein at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

In a fitting bookend to the event, Pechstein skated in the opening pair to become the oldest female athlete in Olympic history at age 49. The German finished last — more than 20 seconds behind the winner.

Italy's Francesca Lollobrigida, pushing Schouten all the way in the final pair, held on for the silver in 3:58.06.

The bronze went to Canada's Isabelle Weidemann in 3:58.64.

Germany's Claudia Pechstein has become the oldest woman to compete at a Winter Olympics. The 49-year-old raced in the 3,000 meters, the opening event of the speedskating competition at the Ice Ribbon.

She becomes just the second athlete — and first woman — to compete in eight Winter Games.

Pechstein's career includes nine Olympic medals and a two-year doping ban, which she continues to fight in court. She tied Japanese ski jumper Noriaki Kasai for the most Winter Olympics.

Pechstein, who turns 50 two days after the end of the Beijing Games, finished with a time of 4 minutes, 17.16 seconds in the opening pair of the event. That was nearly 20 seconds off the Olympic record (3:57.70) she still holds from the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. She won her first medals at the Lillehammer Olympics of 1994.

Cross-country skier Therese Johaug of Norway has won the first gold medal of the Beijing Games in the women's 15-kilometer skiathlon.

Johaug fought wind and frigid temperatures to win by skiing away from a chase group of four.

Russian athlete Natalia Nepryaeva, the current overall World Cup leader, pulled away from the group on the last climb to take the silver. Teresa Stadlober of Austria followed just behind for the bronze medal.

The skiathlon was a mass-start race that began with 7.5 kilometers of classic skiing. After striding two laps around the 3.75-kilometer course, racers came through the stadium and quickly switched to skate skis before heading out for another two laps.

Johaug crossed the line with her arms in the air and a huge smile on her face. She has 10 world championship titles but has never won an individual Olympic gold medal.

Dinigeer Yilamujiang, a skier from China's Uyghur community who helped deliver the Olympic flame to the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games, placed 43rd.

45 Test Positive for COVID

A total of 45 new positive tests for COVID-19 have been announced by organizers of the Beijing Olympics.

Athletes and officials account for 25 of the cases, with 20 detected in people arriving at the airport in Beijing and five more in daily PCR tests taken by everyone at the games.

The 20 other cases involved people working at the games, including media, with six at the airport and 14 inside the Olympic bubbles.

Organizing committee official Huang Chun says the numbers are "within our expectations."

A drop in cases is expected in the days ahead as fewer people arrive for the games and those inside the bubbles have already returned several days of negative tests.

The overall total of COVID-19 cases at the games is 353 since Jan. 23. More than 12,000 people have arrived from outside China.

The snow replica of the Great Wall constructed on the Olympic slopestyle course to block the strong wind has only helped a bit.

It was still gusty during the women's Olympic qualifying round on a bitterly cold day in the mountains above Beijing.

The swirling wind made judging the rails and jumps along the course tricky.

Snowboarder Zoi Sadowski Synnott of New Zealand navigated the extreme conditions and turned in the top score of 86.75. Synnott may just be the biggest challenger to two-time defending Olympic gold medalist Jamie Anderson of the United States.

Anderson finished fifth in qualifying. The top 12 advanced to Sunday's final.

The 31-year-old Anderson said the Great Wall barrier was helpful, but joked "they need a bigger wall."

The course makers built a carved-out, block-by-block structure at the top of the slopestyle course in recognition of China's iconic monument and to provide wind protection.

The temperature was 5 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 15 Celsius) and felt like minus 12 (minus 24 Celsius) during the competition.

The International Olympic Committee says an Olympic security guard was "being overzealous" by manhandling a reporter broadcasting live on Dutch television before the opening ceremony.

Asked about the incident, Beijing Olympics spokeswoman Yan Jiarong says "we welcome all the international media" to report on the games and will protect their legal rights.

Sjoerd den Daas was speaking to the camera Friday evening when a security official pushed him away. He was able to complete his report later.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams says "it was an unfortunate circumstance" and Olympic officials have contacted broadcaster NOS.

NOS is the Netherlands' state broadcaster and an official rights holder of the Olympic Games. Den Daas is its correspondent in China.

Beijing Olympic organizers and the International Olympic Committee responded to questions about why an athlete from China's Uyghur community was picked to help deliver the Olympic flame to the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games.

Dinigeer Yilamujiang, a cross-country skier, is from Xinjiang province, where Western governments and human rights groups say the Beijing government has oppressed members of the Uyghur Muslim minority on a massive scale.

Yilamujiang's selection for the high-profile duty was seen by some as a provocation.

Asked about the choice, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said "we don't discriminate against people on where they are from" and she was entitled to take part as a competitor.

The 20-year-old cross-country skier was among seven current and former Chinese athletes chosen as the final torch-bearers to cap the ceremony.

Organizing committee official Chang Yu says the IOC gave final approval this week to picking athletes by age to represent each decade. The idea was to respect the Chinese tradition of passing legacy on between the generations.

China denies allegations of human rights abuses in a crackdown on the Uyghur community that the U.S. government and others have called genocide. That issue and others have led to diplomatic boycotts of the games by the United States and other countries.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping will meet with his counterparts from Egypt and Serbia on the sidelines of the Beijing Winter Olympics, state broadcaster CCTV said.

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Serbia's Aleksandar Vucic are among more than a dozen world leaders who attended the opening ceremony Friday night.

Xi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin before the opening.

Egypt's ties with China have grown stronger, particularly during the pandemic. There are signs their worldviews are becoming more closely aligned, as el-Sissi seeks to move away from Western leaders who have concerns over his human rights record.

Vucic has been cultivating close ties with China, which has become one of the main investors in Serbia. He called Xi his "brother" at the start of the pandemic for supplying Serbia with respirators and vaccines. Opposition officials have been warning about a lack of transparency in deals Vucic has made with China, including major loans for building roads, highways and factories.

The third and final training session for men's downhill skiing at the Beijing Games has been canceled because of high winds.

Organizers say they made the decision "in the best interest of safety."

The start of the second training session had to be delayed Friday because of wind. Organizers said Saturday there was no window in the forecast that would allow them to push back the third session rather than canceling it.

Only three skiers had set off, including one of the favorites, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway.

The world's best skiers only saw the Rock course up close for the first time on Thursday because test events were canceled over the last two years amid the pandemic.

The men's downhill opens the Alpine competition on Sunday.

Ukrainian figure skater Ivan Shmuratko has cleared COVID-19 protocols by returning two negative tests on consecutive days. That allows him to begin preparing for the men's individual competition that begins Tuesday.

It was one day too late for his team, though. The Ukrainians scored zero points for the men's discipline in the team competition on Friday because Shmuratko was still going through protocols, taking them out of the running for a medal.

The team competition resumes Sunday with the women's short program. Then the top five nations will advance to the free skate, which begins with the men later the same day. The event concludes with the women, pairs and dance free skates on Monday.

China's National Health Commission says new domestic cases of COVID-19 in China have fallen into the single digits, allaying fears for now of a new outbreak that could disrupt the Winter Olympics.

The commission says nine cases were reported in a 24 hour period, only one of them in Beijing.

The Beijing case was in the western district of Fengtai, far from the Olympic venues that have been sealed off into a bubble with gates and fencing to prevent any contact between athletes, officials and other participants on the inside and the general public.

Chinese authorities credit a strict "zero-tolerance" policy with keeping case numbers down through lockdowns and mass testing, even when only small numbers of cases are reported.

The commission on Saturday reported another 18 cases among people who had traveled from abroad, along with 60 imported asymptomatic cases.

As of Thursday, a total of 308 people associated with the Olympics had tested positive since Jan. 23, including athletes, officials and workers at the Games. Almost 12,000 people have arrived in Beijing from outside China for the Olympics.

Canadian hockey forward Melodie Daoust will not play against Finland in the Olympics and is being listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury.

Hockey operations director Gina Kingsbury says Daoust is expected to return during the tournament.

The three-time Olympian was hurt in the second period of Canada's 12-1 win over Switzerland in an opening day preliminary round Group A matchup on Thursday. Daoust has been playing on a line with Natalie Spooner and young star Sarah Fillier, who combined for four goals and three assists against the Swiss.

Sofia Goggia is back on snow and preparing to fly to China to defend her Olympic downhill title two weeks after crashing and injuring her left knee and leg.

Goggia posted a video on Facebook showing herself wearing Italy's Olympic team jacket and says, "today I got back on skis and it was great."

She adds, "So much work over these two weeks, so many injuries to cure, so much effort … but so much desire to make it."

Goggia sprained her left knee, partially tore a cruciate ligament and has a "minor fracture" of the fibula bone in her leg. She also had some tendon damage after the crash in a World Cup super-G in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

Goggia has won the last eight World Cup downhills that she completed.

The Italian says that she's "always been able to focus on the goal and I never considered it lost." She adds that she'll fly to China "soon" and that once there she'll "put everything together turn after turn like always."

Goggia could race the super-G next Friday. The women's downhill is scheduled for Feb. 15.

© Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Snowboarder Shaun White says the Beijing Games will be his last competition.The three-time gold medalist held a reflective, sometimes emotional news conference not far from the halfpipe where he will take his last competitive ride.
beijing, olympics, shaun white, snowboarding, retirement, winter games
Saturday, 05 February 2022 10:04 AM
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