Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchikov won gold in the snowboard halfpipe as American superstar Shaun White fell short of the podium in his bid for a third gold on Wednesday (AEDT).
Australia also enjoyed its best finish in the men’s event with 18-year-old Kent Callister placing ninth in the 12-man final.
But no-one was more spectacular than Podladtchikov who posted a near-perfect 94.50 to secure his first Olympic gold medal.
The man known as ‘I-Pod’ finished one spot outside the medals in Vancouver four years ago and came into the Sochi Olympics as the reigning world champion and one of the form favourites.
The Russian ex-pat was mobbed by tournament volunteers at the end of his run and said he was thrilled to win on the snow he used to call home.
“When I heard this was happening here I was like, ‘Guys this is my pipe’. This is mine. And it worked out,” Podladtchikov told Network Ten.
Japanese boarder Ayumu Hirano, 15, was the youngest competitor to ever reach the final of the halfpipe but was not content with just that record.
Hirano’s second run of 93.50 was good enough to secure silver and make him the youngest medallist in the event’s history.
He was joined on the podium by 18-year-old teammate Taku Hiraoka who recovered from a disappointing first effort to post 92.25 and get himself a bronze medal.
White, undoubtedly the sport’s biggest name, had all the pressure on him as he stood at the top of the course as the final’s last rider.
Hirano’s excellent score created some of the stress but White’s own first run of just 35.00 did him no favours.
And the gold medallist from Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010 could not produce the spectacular effort needed for victory, posting 90.25 to finish fourth.
“I had some amazing practice runs and it just didn’t pan out in the final. It just wasn’t my night … which sucks because it’s a big night,” he said.
White said the pressure and scrutiny he had been under in the lead-up to Sochi had “been out of hand” but, despite some speculating this would be his last Olympics, he was emphatic when asked if he would be back.
“If you could imagine how pissed I am, yes. I’m pretty furious right now,” he said.
During the early rounds, White echoed earlier criticism of the pipe from Torah Bright’s camp and various other competitors, saying the course was “far from perfect”.