Flying Tomato seeks more gold

By Deborah Charles

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defending Olympic champion Shaun White has thrown down a challenge with his newest snowboarding trick and shown that he is the man to beat on the halfpipe at the Vancouver Games.

"The Flying Tomato," whose gold-medal run in Turin launched him to superstar status and brought him millions of dollars in endorsements, pulled off his latest trick on January 22 in Park City. Then he admitted that the move scared him.

"I have never admitted that. I was scared to do that trick. It's intimidating," White said after landing his "Double McTwist 12" -- two flips with three-and-a-half spins -- on the halfpipe. "It's the best trick I've ever done."

"You know there's always room for improvement. The judges are looking for big air and style tricks," said White, who can train as much as he wants on his own halfpipe nestled in the countryside on Silverton Mountain in Colorado.

BRIGHT INJURED

The American women are also expected to dominate on the halfpipe with defending champion Hannah Teter, Gretchen Bleiler and Kelly Clark all considered medal hopefuls.

Australian Torah Bright had been expected to be a strong challenger after working on her own double cork trick -- a double off-axis flip with three spins -- but pulled out of the X Games in Aspen last week after twice suffering concussion in falls.

In Turin, the Americans won seven snowboarding medals and say they hope for even more this time.

In the fast-paced sport of snowboard cross, American Lindsey Jacobellis hopes to make up for losing the gold in the final stretch of the race in Turin when she fell after grabbing her board in an apparent showboat move.

Snowboarding events at Cypress Mountain start on February 15 with the men's snowboard cross and end on February 27 with the men's parallel giant slalom.

(Editing by Clare Fallon)