Well we totally did not see this one coming. After a long day filled with many ups and (literal) downs, thanks to a quite frankly, awful Olympic halfpipe, Swiss ripper Iouri Podladtchikov claimed the Olympic halfpipe gold medal, upseating a visibly disappointed Shaun White from his 8 year reign. Second and third place were both taken by Japanese riders - 15 year old Ayumu Hirano and Taku Hiraoka.
It was young Ayumu Hirano who took the lead early on, breaking into the stratosphere with his backside air, before launching into a huuge front 10, cab 10, front 9, back 9 and front double 10. There has been a lot of chat about this pint sized Japanese kid before the Games, with many touting him as the kid to take down Shaun White, and while we're sure he has a lot more in him in the coming years, he certainly delivered the goods today, posting a 90.75 which saw him sitting in first place for the majority of the second runs.
Shaun White royally messed up his first run, sketching out on his cab 1440 double and taking the lip of the pipe to the hip after going for another double on the next hit, leaving it all to do in his second run.
Today has been another crazy day for snowboarding and it'll be remembered as the the day when the unexpected happened
Iouri Podladtchikov - I-Pod to the general public who will inevitably struggle to pronounce that name in the coming days, seemed much more in tune with the pipe this evening compared to this morning, blasting one hell of a second run to post a score of 94.75. His run started off with a massive backside air before a floaty frontside 5, double mctwist 1260, frontside 1080 and cab double 1440 - his famed 'Yolo' (*shudder*...) flip. It was all executed clean as a whistle and the judges seemed down with his amplitude and the fact that he stomped a trick that he and only one other person in the world can do. Iouri took first place with that score and we knew it would be a very tough one to topple.
Japan's Taku Hiraoka also had a belter of a second run with multiple clean, sizeable double corks which saw him temporarily slot into second place behind Iouri, ahead of his Japanese teammate Ayumu. When Ayumu dropped in for his final run, only he and Shaun White could alter the podium spots any further. Ayumu repeated his first run but went even bigger, bumping his score up by close to 3 points and leap-frogging Taku with one rider left to drop.
Shaun White dropped in with a world of expectation on his shoulders. On most occasions, that second run would be a victory lap for him, but today he was left chasing a cohort of riders who have been nipping at his heels, and getting incrementally closer to his actual feet, for the last few years. He went massive on his first two hits but scuffed his cab double and despite just holding on to the rest of his run, we just knew it wouldn't be enough.
We've all seen the documentaries and know how much Shaun has worked for that third Olympic gold medal (heck, he even pulled out of slopestyle to focus solely on this event), but today, it just straight-up did not go his way. Shaun looked understandably devastated when his score came in but we were glad to see him be genuinely gracious about it all and going over to congratulate Iouri.
Danny Davis is also worthy of a special mention for his riding today and despite not being able to lock down a solid run, he definitely kept it real with his backside 360 into switch method combination that will surely go down in history as the epitome of stylish pipe riding in 2014.
We'll only ever be able to speculate what the final outcome might have been had the pipe been on par with the perfectly cut stunt ditches that these guys ride day to day.
Much also has to be said about the dire state of the Olympic halfpipe today. We'll only ever be able to speculate what the final outcome might have been had the pipe been on par with the perfectly cut stunt ditches that these guys ride day to day. Would Shaun have unleashed a triple or would Ayumu have gone even bigger than he did? Sadly, we'll never know.
The reality, of course, is that every rider today had the same chopped up walls and sugary flat bottom to deal with and the top riders on the day handled it best. But it does make us sad that the riders were held back by a pipe that should, and could have been Olympic quality.
Counter-intuitively this may all end up being a good thing for snowboarding, with riders finally coming together with a concrete reason to say a big fuck you to FIS and the IOC altogether. Who knows - we're kind of on hypothetical, semi-wishful thinking territory now.
But leaving all that aside, today has been another crazy day for snowboarding and it'll be remembered as the the day when the unexpected happened. Shaun took a gamble and lost to his biggest rival and the world was exposed to the kid that will surely be his heir in the near future.
Full results here: