One of the only riders who can match American White in the
complexity of his tricks, the Russian-born Podladtchikov put
together an electrifying display under the lights at the Rosa Khutor
A score of 94.75 proved enough to see off a pair of daredevil
Japanese teenagers as well as overwhelming favorite White's
challenge for a third successive gold medal.
"I feel like fainting. Everything came together exactly the way I
planned," Podladtchikov told reporters.
"On this run, it felt like it was all meant to be and I was this
position where I'm throwing down my hardest tricks with ease,
there's no words for that."
Fifteen-year-old Ayumu Hirano took silver with 93.50 to become the
youngest Olympic medalist on snow, pipping his 18-year-old
compatriot Taku Hiraoka, who grabbed bronze with 92.25.
White, one of the biggest names in winter sports, finished fourth
after remarkably dropping two tricks on his first run and only
managing 90.25 following a couple of stumbles on his second.
After days of controversy about the quality of the pipe, which only
intensified when the warm weather turned some of the packed snow to
slush, a packed house was treated to just over an hour of dizzying
acrobatics and thrilling drama.
There were plenty of falls and errors in the opening round as the
riders battled a bobbly surface.
Hirano, the youngest man in the field, somehow managed to cling on
to his board and he was rewarded with the only score in the 90s, his
90.75 enough for the lead after all 12 riders had gone.
The crowd had turned up to see White crowned King of the Pipe for a
third time, but from the start things did not look quite right and a
huge groan went around the Extreme Park when the 27-year-old almost
snapped his board in half on the lip.
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His score of 35.00 left him 11th after the first run, while
Podladtchikov was third.
"I love you man, but you're worrying me," White had told the Swiss
after qualifying and Podladtchikov showed just why with his second
The 25-year-old was heading up to the five-meter mark with his first
jumps, hit a front-side five then a frontside 1080 before finishing
with a double corkscrew with 1440 degrees of rotation — his
trademark "You Only Live Once" flip.
His erstwhile compatriots in the crowd erupted, and Podladtchikov,
knowing he had performed something special, threw his board at a
fence in delight before kneeling with his head in the snow.
"They're yelling in Russian and I am yelling back in Russian," said
"It's beautiful to hear people cheering in my mother language. It's
There were only six riders to go and two of them fell. Hiraoka
improved his score to take second place, only for Hirano to edge
ahead of him again, and that left only White.
Having scored 95.75 to lead qualifying, a winning score was within
his grasp, but again a couple of uncharacteristic errors cost him. The
yell he emitted at the bottom of the pipe was more one of hope than
"I am disappointed," said White, who gave up his other chance of an
Olympic medal when he withdrew from the slopestyle over fears about
the safety of the course.
"I hate the fact that I nailed it in practice, but it happens. It's
hard to be consistent."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
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