KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Iouri Podladtchikov has always been about putting together the pieces. The process is what matters to the innovative if inconsistent snowboarder they call "I-Pod."
The pursuit of the perfect run can be frustrating work, to the point where the charismatic 25-year-old entered Tuesday night's Olympic halfpipe contest wondering if it was ever going to happen.
The excuses were everywhere. The halfpipe was too slushy. His feet were freezing. His first qualifying run was a mess.
Then, the man who's spent so much time focusing on the pieces saw them start blending one into another until he dethroned an icon and became an Olympic champion in the process.
Putting together the "gnarliest" run of his life surrounded by the sounds of a language that evokes his childhood, the Russian-born star who moved to Switzerland flipped and twisted his way to gold. His 94.75 score was one even Shaun White couldn't top and served as a crowning moment for a rider who never stops pushing the sport or himself.
"I really can't believe it," Podladtchikov said. "Everything came together exactly the way I planned it, like, five minutes ago. It's weird because it never usually works out. You say, 'I'm gonna do this' and someone screws it up for you or something."
To be honest, sometimes the biggest obstacle in Podladtchikov's path is himself. He spent months trying to perfect the "Yolo" — a double-cork 1440 — two head-over-heels flips and two 360-degree turns. The night he finally landed it at an X Games contest in France last year, he immediately botched the next trick, bumping him to fourth place.
There would be no mistakes this time. Not with the flags of his birth country and his adopted home swaying in unison at the packed Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, when at last the man whose family left Russia for the safety of Switzerland at age 8 delivered on his immense potential with a ride for the ages.
Podladtchikov began his final run third overall. Knowing he needed speed and space to throw — and more importantly, to land — the set required to reach the top of the leaderboard, Podladtchikov glided over the 22-foot-high wall five times rather than six, each trip more difficult than the last.