PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — It was exactly noon, 12 o’clock high, when Shaun White stared down the halfpipe, looking again for the top of the world. He wondered if, to win a third gold medal at a Winter Olympics, he could do it on the last run.
He had been there before.
“It was like this crazy déjà vu,” he said at the bottom of the halfpipe in 2018, thinking about Sochi in 2014. “I’m standing there, last guy to go, and I have to put it down.”
It did not happen four years ago, a rare disappointment for a man used to nothing but victories. But given an unusual do-over in sports, he did it this time, pulling off something he had not done before, not even in practice — a clean run with back-to-back 1440s, a quadruple corkscrew of sorts, performed in opposite directions on opposite walls.
White’s coach, J. J. Thomas, the bronze medalist in 2002, the last time the men’s Olympic halfpipe competition did not include White, called it the best halfpipe run he had ever seen. He suggested that there might not be another athlete who relishes pressure like White does, and rises to meet it with such frequency.
White executing a backside double McTwist 1260 for his fourth trick in his gold medal run.Credit…Composite image by Bedel Saget and Jeremy White