SCOTTY James has won bronze for Australia in the halfpipe to become his country’s first men’s snowboard medallist at a Winter Olympics. James got his medal with his first run of 92 points but ultimately couldn’t match the silky skills of American Shaun White who snatched the gold with his last run of 97.75.
Japan’s Ayumu Hirano was second with 95.25 points.
“I came out and did it the Australian way,” said James afterwards. “I gave it a hard crack. I was expecting a good battle and a battle it was. I wish I had landed my second run but it is what it is.
“Honestly, today for me is I get one opportunity every four years to show my country, Australia, what I do. I think I displayed that as well is I could.”
The billing of the best three men’s halfpipe riders on the planet certainly lived up to the hype and the gold medal was very much on the line going into the final run.
It was the jubilant White who came up with the goods, though, capturing his third Games halfpipe gold on the last run of competition as he overtook young gun Hirano.
NASTY: Massive crash mars halfpipe final
Second last down the ‘pipe, James had his chance to move further up the podium but dragged his arm in his second run and fell on his final effort.
“It’s been a tough ride and a tough journey and that was the sentimental value behind my gloves,” said the Aussie bronze medallist.
“Being the underdog, it’s us, it’s what we do. I embrace that every day when I get on the snow and it’s a celebration.”
An emotional James said he was “fighting back the tears”.
“I’m grateful to be standing here, and to get on the podium. With all my family here and being able to fly the flag in the Opening Ceremony, it has escalated. I am honoured, thank you guys back home. It’s been an incredible ride.
“Now I want to go home to my beloved Warrandyte and see my friends and family that I haven’t seen in a long time and really enjoy this, so get in.”
White was all praise for the Australian:
“He’s awesome. Basically let’s grab some beers after this. He is the man. He’s agreat guy and, you know we both put on the face, we wanted it.
“We were fighting it out. I really appreciate somebody that does that, you know. He wears his emotions on the outside. I’m very similar, so I appreciate him coming up to me at the end saying, “You know, congratulations.” You know what he is like “let’s grab some waves man, this is an emotional thing, let’s surf and have some fun.” I’m proud of him getting on the podium.
“I want to thank him and Yumu for pushing me to do the hardest run of my life.”
Many riders had struggled with the timing of their tricks on Wednesday, Japan’s Yuto Totsuka feeling it most brutally after crashing heavily on the halfpipe coping and being taken from the course in a sled.
Much of the competition preamble centred on judging controversies, with James outspoken in his belief White shouldn’t have received a perfect score of 100 in a World Cup competition last month.
The Aussie was also adamant that his switch backside 1260 — arguably the most technical trick and one only he throws down — was being underscored. But the judges looked to be on the money on Wednesday as White cemented his status as the world’s greatest snowboarder.
James becomes the second Australian medallist of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics after Matt Graham won silver in the moguls.
It is Australia’s 14th Winter Olympics medal; another podium finish in South Korea ensuring the team will at least match the three-medal performance of Sochi four years ago.
Fellow Australian Kent Callister was 10th.