White Takes Olympic Gold ... With a McTwist

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WEST VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Shaun White defended his Olympic title in men's halfpipe Wednesday, defeating Finland's Peetu Piiroinen even before pulling off his signature trick.

White secured the win on his first run without the "Double McTwist 1260," then drew a huge roar from the boisterous crowd by pulling it off in his second run, which was essentially a victory lap. He finished with a winning score of 48.4.

"I just felt like I didn't come all the way to Vancouver not to pull out the big guns," White said.

American Scotty Lago took bronze to give the United States multiple podiums for the halfpipe in three straight Olympics. The American men and women have taken 12 of the 21 halfpipe medals awarded since the sport came to the Olympics in 1998.

Soaring through the crisp, clear, Canadian sky, White flew 7.5 meters (25 feet) above the halfpipe at the top on his first run, then linked a pair of spiraling, double-flipping moves in the middle and stayed on his feet the whole way down. Wearing a white and blue bandanna that went perfectly with his red hair, he easily outdistanced Piiroinen.

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    "It's impossible to beat Shaun unless he falls," Piiroinen said.

    White said he skipped the Double McTwist on the first run down the mountain because of nerves.

    "I know I have it in me," he said. "But the Olympics is pretty heavy. I was sweating it a little."

    Having clinched the gold with his first run, White gathered himself and talked with his coach before making a second run that was just for show. The conclusion: It is supposed to be about fun.

    So he did the unbelievably difficult trick. Linking the double corks, losing a little speed on the fourth jump, the one that sets up the finale, he went for it anyway. It wasn't exactly perfect. He had to really twist his body to get the last half twist, but he did it, landed on his feet, and the party that had already started got even bigger.

    "That's what Shaun does," said Louie Vito, who finished fifth. "He can go up there and lay down a run and take care of business. That's why he is who he is."

    White developed the Double McTwist 1260 about a year ago, but an injury halted his work on it. Then he couldn't get himself to commit to it because it was dangerous and because he didn't really think he'd need it.

    At that point, back-to-back double corks -- a pair of easier versions of White's Double McTwist -- were enough to win almost any contest, and nobody did them better than the snowboarder known as The Flying Tomato.

    Things changed after Danny Davis became the first rider to try three double corks in the same run. He beat White with the move and caused White to cancel his vacation plans to get working again on his signature trick.

    It turned out White use it to win the gold, but he used it to celebrate his victory.