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USA's White repeats as snowboard halfpipe champion

WEST VANCOUVER, British Columbia — He has cool nicknames — "The Flying Tomato" and "The Animal." He has his own private halfpipe — Project X — in Silverton Mountain in Colorado. He has his own video game — "Shaun White Snowboarding." He has his own DVD — "The White Adventures." He has endorsement deals that have made him a multimillionaire.

Now, snowboarder Shaun White has something else — another Olympic gold medal.

White, 23, repeated in the halfpipe, scoring a 46.8 out of 50 on his first run in the final Wednesday night. He did even better on his throwaway second run with a 48.4.

American Scott Lago took the bronze, with Finland's Peetu Piiroinen preventing a 1-2 finish by the U.S. with a 45.0 on his last run for the silver. American Louie Vito finished fifth.

White was so much better than the rest of the field that he didn't even need his signature trick, the Double McTwist 1260, to win. The dangerous maneuver — three horizontal rotations inside two vertical flips — was replaced by a conservative backside 900 on his first run.

White screamed and pumped his fists when his score was announced, knowing as the raucous crowd of 4,400 at Cypress Mountain did, that he had lived up to the hype and the expectations.

"It felt good," White said, smiling.

Waiting might have been the hardest part.

Riders get two trips down the chute in the halfpipe final, with only their best score counting. So White had to bide his time as the other 11 finalists took their second runs.

The gap has only grown since White won in Turin four years ago.

With the ice tube having grown to 22 feet, White could go higher — an estimated 5 or 6 feet higher Wednesday — allowing him to complete bigger tricks than any other rider.

It took some pains for him to perfect the Double McTwist 1260. He has chipped an ankle bone and once nearly broke his jaw, but that hasn't stopped him from performing the trick.

After Lago fell on his second run, assuring White the gold, White got to celebrate with a victory lap. White consulted with his coaches, who told him to do whatever he wanted.

"I can't ride right now, man," he said.

He did anyway and gave everybody what they had come to see. After White landed the Double McTwist 1260, he tossed his board into the air.

He had done what he came to do.

As a heavy favorite, White carried the weight of his country on his shoulders Wednesday. Perhaps only the Canadian men's hockey team faces more pressure in these Olympics.

But White is nothing if not cool.

He might be the most popular action sports star ever, with only skateboarding legend Tony Hawk able to argue otherwise. Forbes estimates that White's deals with Burton, Target, Hewlett-Packard, Oakley and Red Bull earned him $9 million in 2008. White owns three homes, including beachfront property in his hometown of Carlsbad, Calif., and he drives a Lamborghini.

Last year, Red Bull built White his own halfpipe, complete with a foam pad for soft landings for perfecting new tricks.Those tricks gave him quite a treat Wednesday.

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