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Shaun White Finishes Fourth In Sochi Halfpipe Final, Missing Medal And Historic Three-Peat

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Shaun White reacts to his first run in the Men's Snowboard Halfpipe Final at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 11, 2014.
Shaun White reacts to his first run in the Men's Snowboard Halfpipe Final at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 11, 2014.

The third time did not remain charmed for Shaun White.

The U.S. snowboarding superstar failed in his bid to win an unprecedented third straight Olympic gold medal in the men's halfpipe. White, 27, fell during his first run and failed to post a winning score in his second at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park in Sochi on Tuesday. With the 11 other finalists watching, White took the last run of the evening, knowing that he needed to top Iouri Podladtchikov's score of 94.75 to become the first American man to win three gold medals in the same event at the Winter Olympics. Instead of a third-straight gold medal, White left the much-maligned Sochi halfpipe with a fourth-place finish and a score of 90.25.

"It's tough. I really wanted to win tonight but it wasn't my night," White told BBC 5 Radio Live.

The night belonged to Switzerland's Podladtchikov, perhaps better known as I-Pod. The 25-year-old Russian-born snowboarder held on to win gold thanks to a signature trick -- the YOLO flip -- that essentially includes two flips, two 360-degree turns and 1440 degrees of spin. He landed it for the first time at X Games Tignes in March 2013, according to ESPN. A pair of snowboarders from Japan finished second and third beyond Podladtchikov, with 15-year-old Ayumu Hirano posting a score of 93.50 and Taku Hiraoka earning a 92.25 from the judges.

CLICK HERE for complete men's halfpipe final results

I-Pod's innovative trick proved to be the key to his success as well as the downfall of White, who failed to cleanly land it during his final runs.

"I'm disappointed," White said after his stunning defeat, via The Associated Press. "I hate the fact I nailed it in practice, but it happens. It's hard to be consistent."

Before receiving his gold medal, I-Pod received an embrace from the famous snowboarder he had just unseated.

"I am about to faint," Podladtchikov later said, via Lindsay Jones of USA TODAY Sports. "I haven't seen gold yet, so I don't believe it."

shaun whiteFRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

White, the red-haired California native once dubbed "The Flying Tomato" for his array of gravity-defying tricks, had previously won gold in the men's halfpipe event at the 2006 Turin Games and the 2010 Vancouver Games. In order to focus on his bid for a historic Olympic three-peat in the halfpipe, White pulled out of the debut slopestyle event after arriving in Sochi.

The somewhat unpopular decision of the 13-time X Games gold medalist seemed to be paying off during qualification earlier on Tuesday. White pulled off a pair of double corks to score a 95.75. That score, the highest posted during qualifying, sent him straight to the final, bypassing the semifinal.

White's troubles in the final began midway through his first run when he landed on the edge of the wall and skidded down into the halfpipe. With another stumble costing him points as well, White's score of 35.00 ranked 11th out of 12 after each finalist's first runs were completed.

shaun white
Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The only boarder to score worse than White in the first run was Gregory Bretz (21.75), also representing the United States. The third American to reach the final was Danny Davis (53.00), he ranked seventh after his first run, also stumbling on his first attempt. Both Bretz and Davis would stumble again in their second runs. White's second run was cleaner than his first but he skidded on the landing of his third jump -- his attempt at the YOLO -- and didn't finish strong.

"We let America down," Davis would say, via Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, after the contingent of U.S. men failed to medal in the halfpipe for the first time since the event was added to the Olympic program in 1998. "Sorry, America."

The condition of the halfpipe had been a point of contention during training and the struggles of the highly-touted U.S. snowboarders in the final -- all six runs, none clean -- suggest they never got comfortable on it.

"It's a bummer to show up to an event like the Olympics and not have the quality of the halfpipe match the quality of the riders," Davis had said after a practice on Monday.

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