Live and direct from the bottom of the halfpipe in PyeongChang, BBC commentator Ed Leigh offers some words on what the world just witnessed at the 2018 winter olympics. Debating the existence of boot grabs, realizing the insane level of competition, and literally watching history in the making. Take it all in.
Words: Ed Leigh
What the fuck is Shaun White on? Are there new performance enhancing drugs that no one knows about that are essentially brain steroids? The self belief, confidence and determination Shaun displayed today suggest he is functioning with an extra strand of DNA the rest of us don't possess.
Watch Shaun White’s gold medal run here:
I am still trying to come to terms with what Shaun White just did. At the age of 31 he went toe to toe with his two nemesi, 19 year old Ayumu Hirano and 23 year old Scotty James. The fact that he still competes at this level in a discipline that is so brutal on the body (let’s not forget the sobering reminder of Yuto Totsuka's exit from the pipe and the fresh scar that traces a line from the tip of Shaun's nose to his top lip) is admirable. But the fact he was able to link a combo of back to back 14s that he had never tried before is frankly ridiculous. Finally, sprinkle on top all of the pressure that follows Shaun into these games and what we all saw him accomplished today becomes other worldly.
Watch Scotty James’ bronze medal run here:
In the build up to this final I discussed at length Shaun's ability to mentally over power his rivals before he has even strapped in. I think there is an argument to say that Scotty James was psychologically beaten in Snowmass and that he was only ever riding for Silver or Bronze here. He would obviously deny that, but the way in which he magnanimously congratulated Shaun as the scores came in suggested to me that he had accepted his fate long before this contest started and the righteous rage he has wielded at judges and fellow competitors is nothing more than a tool, out of exactly the same box as the outrageous claims that many of the riders seem to have been working on in preparation for the games and pull out on completion of even the most average runs.
Watch Ayumu Hirano’s silver medal run here:
Ayumu Hirano should be playing poker, not snowboarding. He gave absolutely nothing away, there was neither joy or disappointment evident when Shaun's winning score was announced so it is impossible to surmise anything other than the fact that no matter what he does, no matter how hard he pushes, no matter how high he goes Shaun is prepared to go further.
Of course there has been no shortage of hate. There were claims of boot and body grabs, but I can reveal these are just conspiracy. The judges who have the best access to replays and the most to lose studied replays instantly. They searched valiantly for indiscretions, but repeated views showed that all of the spins were free of body grabs and the one suspected boot grab was nothing more than the glove touching the boot as the grab was released.
Tomorrow you can pour over the clues that were offered by Andrew Hourmont, Shaun's fellow stake holder in Air and Style, being one of the first to congratulate him. No doubt they are over the moon that their investment in the Secret Garden, China's first super pipe facility, has just doubled in value. But for now you have let go of the politics and accept that Shaun White is the greatest halfpipe snowboarder of all time and the way in which he won his third Gold medal offered one of the greatest spectacles that snowboarding has ever witnessed.