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Shaun White Wins Gold Medal

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BARDONECCHIA, Italy (Feb. 12) - Shaun White (Carlsbad, CA) added another title to his lengthy resume as he won gold in the Olympic Halfpipe contest Sunday in Bardonecchia. Danny Kass (Hamburg, NJ) won his second straight Olympic silver. White's gold and Kass' silver were the first medals of the Torino Olympics for the U.S. Ski Team and U.S. Snowboarding.

White pretty much locked up the victory in his first of two runs in the finals as he posted a score of 46.8. Kass' 44.0 in his second run earned him the silver, while Finn Markku Koski took bronze with a score of 41.5 in his first run.

Mason Aguirre (Mammoth Lakes, CA) was just off the podium in fourth (40.3), while Andy Finch (Fresno, CA) could not regain momentum after decking out in his first run and ended up in 12th (24.7).

It was sketchy for a bit whether White would make the finals as he was seventh after the first qualification run. But, Shaun being Shaun, he lit it up in his second and final run in the qualies to take first with a score of 45.3.

His winning run in the finals consisted of six hits, all with stomped landings. He started with a big frontside air into a McTwist and then the insane spinning began with a frontside 1080, a Cab 1080, a frontside 900 and a backside 900. All in all, White spun a total of 4,680 degrees in his run.

"I didn't know if I would get the gold, I just knew I wanted it," said White, who has now won just about every major snowboard competition at least once. "This is the best year of my life, I'm so happy my whole family's here. I know I won't have this again. It's amazing, everybody's having such a good time."

White, also an accomplished skateboarder, is without a doubt the most solid freestyle rider this year. He barely missed making the '02 Olympic roster, and left no doubt this time as he swept all five Chevrolet U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix superpipe events, which served as the Olympic qualifiers. His recent double gold performance at X Games Ten (halfpipe and slopestyle) tied him with the legendary Shaun Palmer for most golds (six) in X Games history.

"It's incredible how Shaun drops in on every hit and just owns it," said U.S. halfpipe coach Bud Keene. "He rides the pipe like a vert ramp (for skateboarding) and his style makes him stand out from everyone else."

White's second run was more or less a victory lap, and everyone knew he was going to put on a show. He lofted one of the biggest frontside airs ever seen in a pipe and finished up with a couple of lip slashes - not what the judges were looking for, but stylish and old school none the less.

"Well, I just started to have some fun," said White. "Normally, I drop in and do another (move), but then I thought, 'This is the Olympics, I'll try some sprays."

Kass was the lone U.S. rider with Olympic experience as he was part of the U.S. sweep in '02 when Ross Powers won gold, Kass took silver and JJ Thomas earned bronze. The four-time U.S. Open winner, originally from the East coast but now residing at Mammoth Mountain in California, got just a 20.8 in his first finals run.

Kass' silver medal-winning run featured an air to fakie, a Cab 1080 into a frontside 1080, a Cab 720 into a frontside 720 and a switch alley-oop backside rodeo.

When asked if he could win an Olympic gold medal in 2010 (Vancouver), Kass replied, "You never know. I've been pulling things out of my rear all day, so who knows."

Aguirre, just 18 years old, also threw back-to-back 1080s in his run.

"Mason's future is wide open," said Keene. "He reacted very well to the pressure and was so close to getting on the podium."

Finch had a tough day and didn't help his already-sore ankle when he cased a landing in his first run of the finals. He was coming out of a frontside 1080 into a Cab 720 and landed square on the lip with the base of his board. He got a 9.6 for his first run and could not recover fully, ending up with a score of 24.7 in his second run.

The Bardonecchia Melezet superpipe was in much better condition today than it had been during training over the past week. Kinks were worked out of the walls and the afternoon sun softened up the snow just enough to gain an edge but not slow riders down.

Since snowboarding was officially accepted as a medal sport at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, U.S. men have won six of nine possible halfpipe medals. Powers won the bronze in '98 to kick things off.

The women take to the superpipe Monday. Riding for the U.S. is Gretchen Bleiler (Aspen, CO), Kelly Clark (Mt. Snow, VT), Elena Hight (South Lake Tahoe, CA) and Hannah Teter (Belmont, VT). Clark won gold at the '02 Olympics, the first medal for the U.S. in those Games.


XX OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES
Bardonecchia, ITA - Feb. 12, 2006
Men's Halfpipe

1. Shaun White, Carlsbad, Calif., 46.8
2. Danny Kass, Hamburg, N.J., 44.0
3. Markku Koski, Finland, 41.5
4. Mason Aguirre, Mammoth Lakes, Calif., 40.3
5. Antti Autti, Finland, 39.1
--
12. Andy Finch, Fresno, Calif., 24.7

For complete results: http://www.ussnowboarding.com and
http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/610.html?sector=SB&raceid=5611

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