Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Winter Olympics in Sochi: Pod a heartbreaker

Spectacular: Seamus O'Connor during the Halfpipe competition in Sochi

Shaun White's bid for a hat-trick of Winter Olympics snowboard halfpipe titles ended in failure as Swiss Iouri Podladtchikov took the gold medal in Sochi

In a highly competitive field Irish teen sensation Seamus O'Connor missed out on a place in the final.

The American, nicknamed The Flying Tomato, was the red hot favourite to add another crown to the ones he won at Turin 2006 and Vancouver four years later, but the 27-year-old could only finish fourth.

Instead it was crowd favourite Podladtchikov, aka IPod, who took gold medal glory, with Japanese 15-year-old Ayumu Hirano earning the silver and his compatriot Taku Hiraoka bronze.

White had put down a score of 95.75 in the qualifiers to move straight into the showpiece event, but an error-strewn final run saw him awarded 90.25.

"I'm disappointed," he said. "I hate the fact that I nailed it in practice, but it happens.

"It's hard to be consistent."

White (pictured) last week pulled out of the slopestyle event in order to boost his chances of victory yesterday, to the consternation of many of his fellow snowboarders.

Topping the podium would have silenced his critics, but he will now leave Russia empty-handed.

Asked how he felt about missing out on a third gold medal, he said: "I was looking for four – I was hoping to do slopestyle, too, but it didn't pan out. Tonight was just not my time."

The Rosa Khutor Extreme Park has been criticised in some quarters, with the hot weather appearing to make the course bumpy in some parts.

The 13-time Winter X Games gold medal winner fell in his first run and although he landed a marvellous final trick in his second attempt it appeared he touched down with his hand and had earlier grazed the floor with his body on another landing.

But the magnanimous White added: "They were pretty tough – the hard part is not practising but it was the same for everyone."

O'Connor failed to qualify for the final, but he was pleased with his efforts.

Having reached the semi-final by finishing eighth in the first heat, American-born O'Connor could not advance any further after coming ninth, with the top six qualifying.

He would have been, at 16, the second youngest competitor in the final behind 15-year-old Hirano, who topped the standings in the first heat of qualifying.

O'Connor, who can compete for Ireland through his grandparents, was fourth after the first run, despite suffering a slip, with a score of 54.00.

He looked on course for a bigger score but failed to land his final trick properly, which marked him down, and was gradually overhauled.

"It was my hope that if I had landed that run, that I could have made it (to the final)," he said.

Nevertheless O'Connor, who also competed in the slopestyle event, was happy he fulfilled his wish of making it past the heats stage.

"That was originally my goal – to make the semi-finals and I got in there," he said.

"Once I was here I was kind of wanting more. Wanting to land my run, which I was hoping would put me through to the final.

"Just that I made it here is great but it would have been nice pass to through again."

British duo Ben Kilner and Dom Harington struggled in the heats and were eliminated, with both admitting the controversial course played a factor in crashing out of the event.

The pair could not come through the first heat of qualifiers, with Kilner 16th and Harington finishing bottom of all 20 competitors.

Kilner, whose top score was 43.50, admitted the conditions played a part.

"It didn't quite go how I planned," he said. "I was really trying to push it but everything got the better of me.

"I only just kept it together on the first run but the conditions are bumpy and it was tough to hang on."

Harington added: "I didn't do as well as I hoped. I was nervous on my first run and my legs were like jelly."

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