White captures Olympic snowboard qualifier

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 16, 2014 at 6:34 pm •  Published: January 16, 2014

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. (AP) — Shaun White lay flat on the ground in a daze, with a couple of medics hovering over him to assess the damage.

"I haven't taken a hit like that in a long time," he said.

A few hours after that frightening scene played out, White earned his spot in the Olympics — winner of Thursday's second slopestyle qualifying event despite a nasty, face-first fall in the first contest that almost caused him to scrub the whole day.

"I went down and got some food and some medicine and came back and just knew that was all I had in me," White said.

As is usually the case, it was enough.

White strung together three straight dazzling jumps to score a 95.2, then sat out his second run but got the win when none of the other 12 competitors could do better.

The victory made White the top American in two of the four qualifiers and guaranteed a spot on the U.S. Olympic team that, though seemingly preordained, has come with its fair share of injuries and angst.

On Friday, the two-time Olympic halfpipe champion is expected to ride on the halfpipe and try to secure his spot there. Slopestyle is making its debut in the Olympics this year, which has created a jam-packed schedule for White, who hopes to win gold in both. There's another slopestyle qualifier Saturday, though it's hard to imagine he'll compete in that.

"You crash, and then the next morning is when you really feel it," he said. "I have a date with a tub full of ice right now. I'm so thankful to make that run and to be on top of the podium and heading to Sochi. I'm beside myself. It went from one side of the coin all the way to the other from this morning with that crash to, now, winning."

It's been a longer road than that.

White's struggles this season began Dec. 14, when he tweaked his left ankle during the preliminary heats of the first halfpipe qualifying competition in Breckenridge, Colo. He finished second that day, but pulled out of the slopestyle contest.

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