PYEONGCHANG (AFP) – Snowboarding great Shaun White brilliantly won his third Olympic gold but then faced awkward questions over sex claims yesterday as strong winds caused chaos at the Pyeongchang Winter Games.
White, starting last in the halfpipe, watched bronze medallist Scotty James wipe out before nailing a spectacular last run of the day to snatch victory from Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, celebrating wildly afterwards.
It was redemption for the 31-year-old veteran, known as the “Flying Tomato” because of his red hair, who won gold in 2006 and 2010 and helped put the hipster sport on the map, but flopped in Sochi four years ago.
“Oh man, that was awful and amazing at the same time. I knew I did a great ride and I was proud of that and I could walk away with my head high, but when they announced my score and I’d won, it crippled me,” said the American.
“I was so overwhelmed with happiness, I’ve been through so much to get here.”
It was a landmark win because it brought USA their 100th Winter Olympics gold stretching back to speed skater Charles Jewtraw in 1924. White, Chloe Kim, Jamie Anderson and Red Gerard have locked up all four snowboarding titles for America so far in Pyeongchang.
However, White’s joy was punctured when he was questioned by reporters over a sex harassment case involving the female former drummer of his band, Bad Things, which he settled out of court last year.
“Honestly, I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip. But I don’t think so,” said White, when asked if the case had tarnished his legacy.
While the snowboarding went ahead, it was very different elsewhere as high winds forced organisers to close Gangneung’s Olympic Park to visitors and postpone the women’s slalom skiing and the women’s 15km individual biathlon.
At Gangneung, a coastal city, spectators were urged to stay indoors, shops were shut and visitors were turned away from Olympic Park, which houses four ice sports arenas.
High winds have badly disrupted, in particular, the skiing events, meaning a frustrating wait for America’s Mikaela Shiffrin and her bid for multiple medals.
But officials said they had no concerns about fitting in all the ski events, which include another 10 gold medal races before the closing ceremony on February 25.
“If the wind continues to blow for the next 15 days then I guess it might be a problem,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.
Wind also delayed the ski jumping competition in the Nordic Combined. Gold medals remain scheduled in luge and speed skating on day five.
The unified Korean women’s ice hockey team ended their Group B campaign with a 4-1 defeat to Japan, following 8-0 thrashings by Switzerland and Sweden. The two Koreas, the first joint Korean team of any Olympics, enjoyed deafening home support and scored the only goal of their tournament through Korean-American Randi Griffin in the second period.