Shaun White nearly perfect in advancing to halfpipe finals

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Now it’s Shaun White’s turn.

What has become a festival of red, white and blue at Phoenix Snow Park in South Korea began with 17-year-old American Red Gerard putting down an epic final gold-medal winning run, continued with Jamie Anderson surviving a blustery course that saw nearly every rider take a fall, reached full dominance with the lovable Chloe Kim, whose stunning, near-flawless display in the halfpipe earned the 17-year-old a gold medal and a legion of social media followers.

And all of this is, unbelievably enough, the warm-up to what is likely to be the final act of the magnificent, decorated career of Shaun White.

Shaun White flies through the air during qualifying at Phoenix Snow Park. (REUTERS)
Shaun White flies through the air during qualifying at Phoenix Snow Park. (REUTERS)

You know Shaun White. Even if you don’t know snowboarding, you’ve likely heard the name, or perhaps a few of his other monikers, namely “The Flying Tomato.” He’s won a pair of Olympic golds, and his score in the halfpipe from the Turin Olympics in 2006 still stands as the record. If you sort of care for snowboarding, White is the owner of 13 X Games golds. If you don’t care for snowboarding or the X Games, he has his own video game.

On Tuesday in PyeongChang, he showed the world, again, why he’s still the best in the world, despite a disappointing miss on the podium in Sochi in 2014. His first halfpipe qualifying run of 93.25 put him atop the standings, and with 12 riders making it through to Wednesday’s finals, there was no doubt that he would, for the fourth consecutive Olympics, vie for a medal.

A gold is still far from a guarantee. Japanese sensation Ayumu Hirano briefly took the top spot with his 95.25, which preceded Australian flag bearer Scotty James’ scintillating run and a 96.25.

But then White upstaged them all, just because, scoring a 98.50 on his final run, reintroducing himself as the favorite to win gold.

Advancing alongside White are Americans Ben Ferguson, Jake Pates and Chase Josey. The finals begin on Wednesday.

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