Shaun White has cemented his legacy as the most successful American snowboarder of all time after winning his third Olympic gold medal.
The 31-year-old American broke down in tears and cried ‘oh my God, oh my God, oh my God’ after taking the win in a spectacular halfpipe final at Phoenix Snow Park in Pyeonchang on Wednesday.
The Flying Tomato threw his board in the air when his winning score flashed, setting off a delirious celebration.
He ran from the arena and cried openly as he hugged his parents, girlfriend Sarah and sister Kari.
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Shaun White wept after cementing his legacy as the most successful snowboarder of all time after winning a third Olympic gold medal in Pyeongchang
Such was the raw emotion of the moment that he refused to let go of his father Roger despite pleas from officials for him to attend the winner’s podium
Such was the raw emotion of the moment that he refused to let go of his father despite pleas from officials for him to attend the winner’s podium.
White scored 97.75 on his final run to pip Japan’s Ayumu Hirano to the gold, while Australian Scotty James took bronze.
He trailed Hirano going into the last of the three runs in the 12-man final, but put together a daring set that included consecutive 1440-degree spins.
The US have won all three snowboarding gold medal awarded at the Games so far.
White’s father told DailyMail.com: ‘I am in tears. This means so much to him. He was incredible. So brave. He deserves this gold. He’s worked so hard.’
‘I hugged him and told him ‘I love you’ and he said ‘I love you too’.
‘All he could say was: ‘Oh my God’ – it was almost like he is not believing it.’
He is the first American male to win gold at three separate Winter Olympics – he also won in 2006 and 2010.
His victory also gave the United States its 100th gold medal in Winter Olympics history.
The 31-year-old American broke down in tears as he hugged his parents after clinching the gold medal
The Flying Tomato threw his board in the air when his winning score flashed, setting off a delirious celebration
White celebrated with his parents, sister and other supporters after winning his third gold medal
White failed to reach the podium four years ago in Sochi, a loss that led him to do more than a fair amount of soul searching in the aftermath.
He had described his downfall in Sochi and the misery that followed him as: ‘People ask, ‘When are you going to get over it?’ You don’t, you don’t really ever get over it. It’s kind of like you have a scar from falling off a bike, it’s just with you forever. But you learn from it.’
Last fall he underwent emergency surgery on his nose and upper lip in New Zealand after smashing into the deck of the halfpipe during training and arrived in South Korea with stitches in his mouth that still hadn’t fully dissolved.
The misery of Sochi almost threatened to engulf him again on Wednesday as he toppled over in the snow and saw his Japanese opponent head the leader board.
Japan’s Ayumu Hirano finished second and Australia’s Scotty James earned bronze
White trailed Hirano going into the last of the three runs in the 12-man final, but put together a daring set that included consecutive 1440-degree spins
White is the first American male to win gold at three separate Winter Olympics – he also won in 2006 and 2010
But with his final, brave and superb run – and to the joy of hundreds of Americans screaming his name – he came good and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Many who saw his tears were witnessing a sporting great roaring back to life.
It wasn’t about adding to the $40 million he has banked or the fame and celebrity that follows him. It was plaintively and simply about representing his country and achieving a place in the record books as a true champion.
His sister Kari told DailyMail.com: ‘It has been hard for him these last four years. But he was surprised that people were saying he was going to retire.
‘He was like ‘But I’m 30 years old… what are they saying?’.’
His father Roger said his son had lived through the pressure of being the Olympic champion and ‘had a really hard time when he was younger’.
‘Being at the top was hard for him, everybody wants to be number one. It has been a roller coaster for him.’
He said the triple Olympic gold medalist had not talked about retirement and was thinking of taking up skate boarding for the Tokyo games over the next two years.
‘He always is there to win,’ he said.
White won gold in 2006 in Torino (left) and again in 2010 in Vancouver (right)
White failed to reach the podium four years ago in Sochi (above), a loss that led him to do more than a fair amount of soul searching in the aftermath