American snowboarder bests Japan's Hirano on last run
By The Associated Press
The pressure was real. So were the tears — of joy, relief, redemption.
This is why Shaun White keeps going. This is why the snowboarding superstar returns to the Olympics again and again, a journey that's seen him evolve from teenage phenom to global brand to icon. One with a perpetual target on his back and impossible expectations to meet.
Standing atop the halfpipe on a grey Wednesday morning at slushy Phoenix Snow Park in Pyeongchang, South Korea, with his hopes for a third gold down to one final shot. White never wavered.
"I honestly knew I had it," White said. "I knew I had to put it down."
The stakes left him little choice. Rising star and heir apparent Ayumu Hirano had snatched the lead out of White's hand during the men's halfpipe final, throwing a spectacular epic second run to vault into the lead and put a portion of White's Olympic legacy at risk.
Not that it mattered.
One deep breath, a half-dozen near flawless tricks — including back-to-back 1440s, a trick he never landed in competition before these finals — and one seemingly interminable wait later White's return to the top of his sport was complete.
When his score of 97.75 flashed, more than two points clear of Hirano and almost six clear of Australian bronze medallist Scotty James, it all seemed worth it. The long road back from disappointment in Sochi four years ago. The painful recovery from a crash in New Zealand last fall that required emergency surgery. The notion the man who for so long served as a pioneer had been surpassed by the next generation.
Not quite yet.
Sexual harassment allegations
White's loss in Sochi led him to do more than a fair amount of soul searching in the aftermath. His life became more complex as he tried to juggle his snowboarding career and the endless business opportunities it provided.
White also was the subject of sexual harassment allegations and reached a settlement last May with Lena Zawaideh, who was the drummer in his band Bad Things.
He dismissed the sexual assault allegations made against him in a 2016 lawsuit as "gossip" and hurried away from reporters trying to ask him more about the allegations Wednesday, just hours after winning gold.
As White was competing, many on social media resurfaced the details from the lawsuit. Zawaideh said White sexually harassed and refused to pay her wages after he fired her.
White was asked if the allegations might tarnish his reputation.
"I'm here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip and stuff," he said. "I don't think so."
Reporters attempted to follow up about the lawsuit, but U.S. Snowboarding and Freeskiing Event Director Nick Alexakos shut them down.
White immediately left the stage following the conference while reporters continued to question him.
"I have to get to the medal ceremony," he said while being ushered away by Alexakos.
In the lawsuit, Zawaideh said White repeatedly sexually harassed her, forced her to watch pornography and told her how to get her hair cut.
The lawsuit included screengrabs of text messages allegedly sent by White asking about the haircut and suggesting she wear a provocative outfit.
Praise for White's performance in Pyeongchang caught backfire on social media at a time when #MeToo and other movements are calling for more accountability about harassment and abuse.