COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colo. – Shaun White will have to wait at least one more week to get an inside track on a trip to his fifth Olympics after an eighth-place finish Saturday at the season's first qualifying event.
The three-time gold medalist could not put together a completely clean run on any of his three trips down the halfpipe at the U.S. Grand Prix. He failed to earn the podium spot that would put him in the best position for the trip to Beijing.
Ruka Hirano of Japan won the contest with a run of 89.25 that featured five straight double-cork tricks. Jan Scherrer of Switzerland finished second and Yuto Totsuka of Japan finished third, a half-point ahead of two-time Olympic silver medalist Ayumu Hirano, who also is from Japan.
“I feel like they all have a similar style of riding,” Scherrer said of the Japanese. “And somehow it’s just better than the Europeans and the Americans. At the end, it always looks like they’re less scared of doing stuff than me for example.”
Raibu Katayama of Japan was taken off the halfpipe via sled after hitting his head on the decking during his second run. He could be seen moving as he was taken off the course, and he went to the hospital for observation.
Americans Taylor Gold and Chase Josey finished fifth and sixth, meaning they, along with White, will head into next week's Dew Tour still in search of a top finish that would vault them ahead in the race for three men's spots on the U.S. Olympic team.
White flew as high out of the halfpipe as any of the 10 finalists, but all three of his runs had issues. On his last try, he fell on the first jump, then rushed off the course — stopping only for a quick picture with a fan at the base of the hill before heading toward the parking lot.
“It’s always really hard,” Gold said of making the Olympic squad. “The U.S. team is super deep and there’s a lot of young guys on it right now. So just to make the team is a huge accomplishment.”
Cai Xuetong of China won the women's final. There were no Americans in the eight-woman field. Defending Olympic champion Chloe Kim and another top U.S. rider, Maddie Mastro, are both in good shape to qualify and are expected to compete next week at Dew Tour.
The final qualifier is at Mammoth Mountain in January.
AP Sports Writer Pat Graham contributed to this report.
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