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OLYMPICS

Shaun White defends gold in halfpipe

Even his conservative first run is good enough for his second gold medal.

February 18, 2010|By Lisa Dillman

Reporting from Vancouver, Canada — Double cork equaled double gold.

Shaun White grabbed air and looked like he was capable of grabbing the tree line at Cypress Mountain on Wednesday night in the men's halfpipe.

He soared high and seized the moment, bringing the crowd along for the ride, and well, the U.S. men's team, too. Teammate Scotty Lago won the bronze, just behind Peetu Piiroinen of Finland.

White successfully defended his Olympic gold medal from 2006 in Turin, Italy. Maybe it should be called Red-Peat, as a nod to his long, flowing red hair.

"It feels good," White said. "Heavy lies the crown."

He knew he had the gold when the only rider capable of catching him, Lago, went down on his second run. White and the coaches celebrated at the top of the hill and one of the coaches leaned in and said, "Double, double and Mac at the end."

The double was a reference to double corks and his signature Double McTwist 1260. "I'm starting to believe it," said White, who then pulled it off.

He officially became a believer at the end of the dazzling show, saying: "I felt it was such a miracle run. . . . I just felt like I didn't come all the way to Vancouver not to pull out the big guns. I put down the tricks I've worked so hard on.

"My coach said at the top, 'Don't do this unless you're gonna stomp it.' "

Not only did White stomp it, but he stomped and stumped the competition.

The fascinating thing about the 23-year-old White is that his conservative ride would be considered a run for the ages by any of the other competitors. He was a four full points ahead of the second-place rider (Lago) after the first run and then his second run was 48.4 points, the final winning margin a whopping 3.4 points.

White, the final rider of the opening run, dropped into the icy halfpipe and opened with a straight air, pulled off back-to-back double corks, moved on to a front-side 540 and completed the show with a backside 9 to score 46.8 points

"I was in Park City working on that run and I finally put it down," White said. "I knew that I had it in me. But the Olympics are kind of heavy. I was sweating it a little. It felt good."

Piiroinen prevented a 1-2 finish by the U.S. with a 45.0 on his last run for the silver. Lago's first run of 42.8 was good enough to hold up for third, and Louie Vito, of "Dancing with the Stars" fame, finished in fifth place.

"Obviously, I wanted to get on the podium," Vito said. "It's a good look for snowboarding to have them up there. But I wish I was up there too."

Lago had others on his mind. Amid the celebration, there was an emotional undercurrent to the night of thrills on the hill.

Earlier, in the semifinals, Lago paid tribute to his injured friends, looking into the TV camera: "Danny, Kevin -- that run was for you guys. I wish you were here with me."

Lago was speaking of snowboarders Danny Davis and Kevin Pearce. Pearce suffered a severe head injury in training Dec. 31.

Pearce is learning to speak again and able to walk with assistance but has impaired vision, NBC reported. Davis was injured in an all-terrain-vehicle mishap a few weeks later, and needed two surgeries. One of his representatives said here this week that Davis would be able to snowboard and compete again next season.

Staff writer David Wharton contributed to this report.

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

Twitter.com/reallisa

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