(Reuters) – Double Olympic gold medallist Shaun White was spurred on by his rivals as he sealed top spot in qualifying for the men’s snowboard halfpipe event on Tuesday.
American White scored 93.25 in his first run and followed up with a 98.50 to finish ahead of Australian Scotty James and Japan’s Ayumu Hirano.
“I was stoked to put that (first) run down, that took the pressure and the edge off and then I started seeing everyone putting these great runs in and I figured I would step it up. They motivated me to send it on that last one,” White told reporters.
“I knew I had it in me, I watched these young guys putting these amazing runs in and it fired me up. I just wanted to show that this is what I have been doing my entire life.”
White, 31, also spoke of his pride in inspiring the younger competitors, specifically 19-year-old Hirano who claimed the silver medal in Sochi four years ago.
“Honestly Ayumu, I have watched him since he was 13 years old. He was in a tough position… Yeah they were saying that to him (that Ayumu was going to be the next Shaun White) as a 13-year-old kid,” White added.
“That’s a lot of pressure and a lot to live up to – and I am sitting there saying ‘What do you mean? I am still here’. I am just proud to be someone that changed the sport.
“This is my fourth Olympics, I have never really felt like an underdog since I was a little kid.”
The final starts at 1000 local time (0100 GMT) on Wednesday with White chasing a record third Olympic snowboarding gold medal.
(Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)