Shaun White Gets Fourth in Halfpipe as Norway Tops Sochi Medals

U.S. snowboarder Shaun White surrendered his Olympic halfpipe crown after an eight-year reign, finishing fourth as a Swiss and two Japanese teenagers took the medals at the Sochi Games.

The U.S. also got shut out of the medals in the inaugural women’s ski jumping event, and is tied with host nation Russia for fourth place in overall medals behind leader Norway.

Balmy weather is expected to continue in Sochi, with a forecast high of 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit) as six medals -- including women’s downhill -- are awarded today.

White, 27, the most decorated snowboarder in history, dropped out of the slopestyle event four days ago to focus on winning a third straight gold in the halfpipe.

“I was looking for four,” White said. “I was hoping to do slopestyle, too, but it didn’t pan out. Tonight was just not my time.”

Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchikov, 25, won the gold with

94.75 points on his second of two runs in the halfpipe finals. Ayumu Hirano, 15, of Japan took the silver with 93.50 points and teammate Taku Hiraoka, 18, earned the bronze with 92.25.

Podladtchikov, who competed for Russia at the 2006 Turin Olympics before becoming a Swiss citizen, yelled “Oh, my God” as White failed to make clean landings on his final run.

White, who won halfpipe gold in 2006 and in Vancouver four years ago, made two major mistakes on his first run in the finals to finish next-to-last among the 12 snowboarders.

White’s Chance

Only the best jump of the two in the finals counts, though, so White still had a chance to grab a medal when he made the last run of the night. He could only manage a score of 90.25 points.

Germany’s Carina Vogt won gold in the normal hill individual event as women made their Olympic debut in ski jumping. Daniela Iraschko-Stolz of Austria won silver and France’s Coline Mattel took bronze. The highest-placed American was Jessica Jerome in 10th.

Ola Vigen Hattestad avoided a crash to win the men’s cross-country ski sprint final and compatriot Maiken Caspersen Falla captured the gold in the women’s race, putting Norway atop the medals standings.

The Scandinavian country has 11 medals overall, four of them gold. Canada has four golds among its nine medals. The Netherlands is third with eight overall and the U.S. and host Russia have seven apiece with 26 of the 98 total medal events completed.

Canada’s Dara Howell won the women’s slopestyle skiing. Devin Logan of the U.S. took silver and Canada’s Kim Lamarre captured the bronze.

“That will go down in history, I am so proud,” Howell said. “It’s huge for Canada. The hard work has paid off.”

Howell’s Stitches

Howell, 19, suffered an injury before the competition, but it did not happen at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. Rather, it happened in her hotel room when a lampshade fell on her face.

“A couple of stitches I can handle,” she told reporters. “A gold medal is truly amazing.”

Canada’s Yuki Tsubota, 20, crashed and was carried off the course during the finals. Tsubota, who finished sixth, was doing her second run when she fell on a landing and slid down the slope. She was surrounded by several Olympic staff and stewards before being taken away for treatment at the Russian resort. She may have broken her jaw, the Toronto Star reported. Germany took gold and silver in the women’s singles luge, with Natalie Geisenberger posting a four-run time of 3 minutes, 19.768 seconds for the gold and teammate and 2010 champion Tatjana Huefner finishing 1.139 seconds back. American Erin Hamlin took the bronze medal, 1.377 seconds behind the winner. The winning margin for Geisenberger was the biggest in an Olympic luge event in 50 years.

Olympic Record

South Korea’s Sang Hwa Lee set an Olympic record on the second run while winning the women’s 500-meter speedskating sprint. She skated the final run in 37.28 seconds, beating the record of 37.30 set by Canada’s Catriona le May Doan at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, and finished the two-run event in 74.70. Olga Fatkulina of Russia won silver in 75.06 and Margot Boer of the Netherlands was third in 75.48.

Darya Domracheva of Belarus won gold in the women’s biathlon 10-kilometer pursuit, outpacing Norway’s Tora Berger and Slovenia’s Teja Gregorin.

Warm Weather

Temperatures of 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit) on courses in the mountain area softened snow, making athletes in several Alpine sports concerned about how it will affect their chances.

Bode Miller, trying to become the oldest Olympic Alpine skiing medalist, said he may struggle in his next race because warmer conditions are changing the slopes.

“Now it’s a completely different race course,” 36-year-old Miller told reporters after finishing fastest in training for the downhill portion of the Feb. 14 super combined event. “It could have been a great race, but now the conditions are much easier and it will be much more difficult to put some time on.”

Local organizers have stored piles of snow from previous seasons to ensure that there are no bald spots in any venue. Alexandra Kosterina, spokeswoman for the Sochi organizing committee, said she was unaware of any of the stockpile being used so far during the games.

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