SOCHI, Russia — American snowboarder Shaun White, one of biggest draws at the Winter Olympics and favorite to win his third straight halfpipe title, bowed out without a medal on Tuesday in the biggest upset of the Games so far.
The 27-year-old was criticized for withdrawing from the slopestyle event to avoid risk of injury and the strategy backfired when Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchikov was the better jumper and twister in the floodlit final. White took fourth.
“I am disappointed,” White said after the event. “I hate the fact that I nailed it in practice, but it happens. It’s hard to be consistent.”
The drama unfolded while the women ski jumpers fought it out for the first-ever Olympic medals, after campaigning for 13 years to be included alongside the men.
Germany’s Carina Vogt collapsed in tears, then was mobbed by jubilant teammates, when her narrow win was confirmed following a tense wait at the bottom of the hill.
That brought to a close the fourth day of competition at the Games, with most of the action set among the peaks of the Caucasus Mountains.
Mild temperatures left many competitors complaining about poor snow conditions, and the number of tumbles across disciplines ranging from cross-country to freestyle skiing slopestyle appeared to back them up.
The final training session for today’s women’s downhill was cancelled due to the conditions, and ahead of the Nordic Combined competition on the same day, American Bill Demong said of the snow: “It’s not even slushy, it’s just mushy.”
Temperatures are expected to rise to at least 59 Fahrenheit later this week, potentially posing more problems.
Darya Domracheva gave her rivals no chance as she powered to victory in biathlon’s 10-kilometer pursuit, becoming the first woman to win a Winter Olympic gold for Belarus.
Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger was as dominant in securing victory in the women’s luge, but in a rare display of discord, compatriot and silver medalist Tatjana Huefner said the winner was favored by her federation.
Teenager Dara Howell of Canada won the inaugural women’s freestyle skiing slopestyle.
Several skiers crashed out spectacularly, including Howell’s compatriot Yuki Tsubota, who suffered a suspected broken jaw when falling heavily in the final.
Howell paid tribute to freestyle skiing pioneer Sarah Burke, who died in a training accident in January 2012. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) earlier banned athletes from wearing stickers in her memory.
It was Canada’s fourth gold of the Games but they trailed in the overall table after Norway won both the men and women’s cross-country sprints.
Russia lingered in seventh position with a solitary gold, three silver and three bronze medals.
The hosts are desperate to improve on their woeful performance at the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver when just three gold medals left them ranked 11th.
Back in Sochi, Russian Olga Fatkulina came close to an upset in the 500 meters speed skating, but the overwhelming favorite and world record holder, South Korea’s Lee Sang-hwa, retained her title and left an army of home supporters in the Adler Arena crestfallen.