Shaun White has turned almost corporate-like, his signature long red hair giving way to a more conservative look as the world’s most famous snowboarder headed into Sochi to ply his stock in trade.
The defending Olympic champion in the halfpipe, the U.S. athlete entered the competition in questionable health with a nagging ankle injury affecting his training.
And when White pulled out of the earlier Olympic slopestyle competition in order to preserve himself for the halfpipe, his decision was met mostly with derision by his fellow snowboarders, who questioned his motives.
And now, the biggest star of the Winter Olympics will be going home without a medal, falling for the first time in Olympic competition and finishing fourth, perhaps a signal that White’s dominance in the sport is gradually waning.
Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland – Switzerland??? – won the event, cemented by a technically perfect final-round run.
Podladtchikov left Russia at age three and settled in Switzerland, where he first took up skateboarding, which led to snowboarding
To many, White’s demise on the course was almost embraced with a feeling that White had grown too big, too corporate.
Still, snowboarding owes a great debt to the 30-year-old, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who helped to popularize the sport world-wide.
And White was not too big earlier in the week to hop a waist-high fence after a qualifying run in order to greet two American fans who had traveled to Russia just to meet him.
Hyumu Hirano, the 15-year-old from Japan whose high-flying antics earned him the sliver medal, has been described as a “badass” by Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris, who means that in a good way.
A Cal Ripkin kind of streak came to an end on Tuesday night, when Matt Lauer replaced the venerable Bob Costas as the prime-time host of NBC’s Olympic Games coverage.
Costas has been battling a bad eye infection at the Games and was forced to wear glasses.
He is a major shareholder in a couple of casinos, controls part of a huge German publishing house and spends most of his time working in property development.
John Jahr is also undoubtedly the world’s most interesting millionaire curler who is the skip of Germany’s men’s team in Sochi.
The Olympics are big news in India, but for other reasons than athletic achievement.
The IOC has announced it has lifted a ban on the country’s Olympic association that means that India’s athletes will now be able to march behind the Indian flag come the closing ceremonies.
And the three athletes from India who have been competing in Russia under the Olympic flag because of the suspension are delighted by the development.
Not so delighted by recent developments is alpine skier Jackie Chamoun, one of only two Lebanese athletes representing their country at the Winter Olympics.
A racy calendar and video featuring the 22-year-old Chamoun that reveals “bare legs and hints of her décolletage” have surfaced and is causing her no end of distress.
For many fans attending the Olympics in Sochi, the biggest upset is the fact that it is almost impossible to get an alcoholic drink.
While the Russians have invited the world to their home for the Sochi Olympics, officials are not all that enthralled with the new social media that allows many journalists to share videos from the competition.
According to Russian news reports, journalists covering the Olympics who use their smartphones to document Olympic action will be considered in "serious violation" and have their credentials revoked.