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Shaun White fails to medal in halfpipe

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Odd that a rider as tuned-in as Shaun White is to what it takes to win the Olympic halfpipe would be beaten by a man they call "iPod."

But it wasn't just Iouri Podladtchikov, the Russian-born snowboarder who rides for Switzerland, who kept White off the podium on Tuesday.

He was also beaten by 15-year-old Ayumu Hirano and 18-year-old Taku Hiraoka of Japan.

White failed to medal in the men's halfpipe, finishing two points out of medal contention in fourth place to miss a chance to complete what would have been a first-of-its-kind Olympic three-peat.

Podladchikov had two clean runs -- the second one a stunner -- on a day when all three Americans to make the finals fell.

It marked the first time since snowboarding's Olympic debut in 1998 that the U.S. failed to medal in a men's or women's halfpipe competition.

"Tonight was just one of those nights. It's a bummer," said White.

After moving directly into the nighttime final with a monster 95.75 score in afternoon qualifying, White made two mistakes in his first run. He clipped the lip of the pipe and slid on his butt, then whacked the middle of his board on the icy edge to ruin another trick.

He went last on both runs as the top qualifier, setting up a dramatic finish under the lights.

Wearing an American flag bandanna below his goggles to cover his face, White dropped in to his final run needing to beat Podladtchikov's 94.75 score for gold and Hiraoka's 92.25 to medal.

But he hit his butt at the end of a trick early on, then dragged his right hand near the end of the pipe.

White, 27, put on a good celebration at the end, but failed in his attempt to become only the fourth athlete ever to win the same event in three straight Winter Olympics.

The first three were all women: speed skaters Bonnie Blair of the U.S. and Claudia Pechstein of Germany and figure skater Sonja Henie of Norway.

"I had a game plan," said White. "I had a specific run I wanted to land and I didn't get to put that down. That's one of the most frustrating things for me. If I land my run and I'm beat then I'm OK with that, but I definitely didn't get that chance tonight and it happens."

Prior to Tuesday, Americans had medaled at least once in all eight Olympic halfpipe competitions, winning five golds and 14 of the 24 overall medals.

White wasn't alone. Teammates Danny Davis and Greg Bretz fell on both of their runs in the finals and finished 10th and 12th out of 12 riders. Bretz was also 12th four years ago, while Davis missed the Vancouver Olympics after injuring his back and pelvis in an all-terrain vehicle accident.

American Taylor Gold didn't make it out of the semifinals less than two months after winning a World Cup event at Copper Mountain, Colo.

The Rosa Khutor halfpipe has drawn criticism as being in subpar condition. The weather on Tuesday, more spring than winter, created slushy conditions on the pipe.

"Conditions in the halfpipe were really challenging," said Bretz.

White was competing after pulling out of the Olympic slopestyle event last week, in a decision that was mocked by two Canadian snowboarders on Twitter. White cited a desire to focus on the halfpipe and saying the risk of injury was too great on a slopestyle course seen by some as being potentially dangerous.

Though he arrived in Sochi with a chance to win two medals and walked away with none, White didn't seem to agree it was a total failure.

"It's all about the fans, the people that come here to watch. Being an Olympian is nothing to scoff at," said White. "I'm definitely proud to be here representing the U.S. I'm proud to be an Olympian.

"I had a tough night, but I think I affected a lot of people that have never seen the sport before. But I don't think tonight makes or breaks my career. I've been snowboarding for so long. I love it and it's given me so much. I'm happy to take this for what it is and move on and continue to ride."

The Olympic glory went to Podladtchikov, who won using a trick called the YOLO on a run, it was clear, would be tough to beat -- even for White.

Podladtchikov threw his board down in celebration and dropped to his knees. He screamed into a TV camera.

He became the second Swiss rider to win the Olympic event after Gian Simmen, who captured the first one in 1998 before an American run on golds.

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