Pyeongchang (South Korea) (AFP) – Snowboarding great Shaun White brilliantly won his third Olympic gold but then faced awkward questions over sex harassment claims on Wednesday, as strong winds caused chaos at the Pyeongchang Winter Games.
White, starting last in the halfpipe, watched bronze medallist Scotty James wipe out before nailing a spectacular last run of the day to snatch victory from Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, celebrating wildly afterwards.
It was redemption for the 31-year-old veteran, known as the “Flying Tomato” because of his red hair, who won gold in 2006 and 2010 and helped put the hipster sport on the map, but flopped in Sochi four years ago.
“Oh man, that was awful and amazing at the same time. I knew I did a great ride and I was proud of that and I could walk away with my head high, but when they announced my score and I’d won, it crippled me,” said the American.
It was a landmark win because it brought USA their 100th Winter Olympics gold stretching back to speed skater Charles Jewtraw in 1924. White, Chloe Kim, Jamie Anderson and Red Gerard have locked up all four snowboarding titles for America so far in Pyeongchang.
However, White’s joy was punctured when he was questioned by reporters over a sex harassment case involving the female former drummer of his band, Bad Things, which he settled out of court last year.
“Honestly, I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip,” said White. He later apologised for his response following criticism in US media.
“It was a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject in the world today,” White told NBC television’s “Today” program.
“And, you know, I’m just truly sorry. And I was so overwhelmed with just wanting to talk about how amazing today was and share my experience.”
While the snowboarding went ahead, it was very different elsewhere as high winds forced organisers to close Gangneung’s Olympic Park to visitors and postpone the women’s slalom skiing and the women’s 15km individual biathlon.
– Windy city –
At Gangneung, a coastal city, spectators were urged to stay indoors, shops were shut and visitors were turned away from Olympic Park, which houses four ice sports arenas.
High winds have badly disrupted, in particular, the skiing events, meaning a frustrating wait for American Mikaela Shiffrin and her bid for multiple medals.
But officials said they had no concerns about fitting in all the ski events, which include another 10 gold medal races before the closing ceremony on February 25.
“If the wind continues to blow for the next 15 days then I guess it might be a problem,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.
Wind also delayed in the Nordic combined normal hill event, before Germany’s Eric Frenzel retained his title.
Jorien ter Mors won the women’s 1,000m speed skating, extending the Netherlands’ perfect record in the competition so far, and Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt defended their title in the men’s doubles luge.
The unified Korean women’s ice hockey team ended their Group B campaign with a 4-1 defeat by Japan, following 8-0 thrashings by Switzerland and Sweden.
The two Koreas, the first joint Korean team of any Olympics, enjoyed deafening home support and scored their first goal of the tournament through Korean-American Randi Griffin in the second period.
It comes after North Korea’s Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik successfully reached the pairs figure skating final, supported in the stands by their country’s tightly choreographed “army of beauties” cheering squad.
“There has been no discomfort and now that we have competed, (we could see) how strong our Korean people can be when we are together,” said Kim, 25.
“We are one people sharing the same bloodline.”
North Korea ended months of tension with the South last month when it agreed to attend the Games, sending 22 athletes including 12 players for the hockey team.
Elsewhere, the men’s hockey tournament began with a pair of upsets. Slovakia stunned a favoured Russian team 3-2 while the United States crashed to a shock 3-2 loss to Slovenia.