Shaun White earned his third career gold medal at the men’s snowboard halfpipe event Wednesday at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The win came 12 years after “the Flying Tomato” won his first gold medal in the event at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy and the 100th gold medal in U.S. Winter Olympics history.
The event’s final participant, White delivered a third run score of 97.75 to defeat Japan’s Ayumu Hirano – whose 95.75 led much of the event’s finals – to win his third gold medal and first since the 2010 Olympics. White finished fourth in the event at the 2014 Olympics.
White’s redemption run was highlighted by opening with a pair of 1440s, a difficult maneuver especially considering White smashed his face and required 62 stitches attempting the move in New Zealand in 2017.
“Honestly it’s one of the most challenging runs I’ve ever done,” White told NBC after the run. “I didn’t even link the combination, the 14 to 14, until I got here, today, this morning. So, honestly, I’m just so happy with my performance. I’m proud of the other riders for pushing me this whole time.”
Following the win, White displayed an outpouring of emotion seldom seen in his previous Olympic wins. “Oh man, that was awful and amazing at the same time,” he said. “I knew I did a great ride and I was proud of that and I could walk away with my head high, but when they announced my score and I’d won, it crippled me.”
However, with his halfpipe win placing White back in the headlines, the snowboarder faced renewed questions regarding a sexual harassment lawsuit he faced in 2014. In that suit, Lena Zawaideh, the former drummer of White’s band, alleged that he texted and showed her sexually explicit images and videos, forced her to drink vodka underage, dictated her look and wardrobe and “stuck his hands down his pants, then shoved them in her face to smell them,” Yahoo Sports reported. The lawsuit was settled out of court last May.
Following his gold medal win, White largely dodged questions about the lawsuit, dismissing the claims as “gossip.” “I am who I am,” White said. “And I’m proud of who I am. And my friends love me and vouch for me, and I think that stands on its own.”
In a follow-up interview on the Today show later in the day, White apologized for his “gossip” comment. “I’m truly sorry that I chose the word gossip. It was a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject in the world today,” White said.
“It’s amazing how life works and twists and turns and lessons learned. Every experience in my life I feel like it’s taught me a lesson and I definitely feel like I’m a much more changed person then I was when I was younger.”