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Shaun White ends 3-year break from snowboard competition

Shaun White

PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 14: Shaun White #2 of the United States reacts after winning the gold medal in the Snowboard Men’s Halfpipe competition at Phoenix Snow Park on February 14, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Corbis via Getty Images

Shaun White returned to snowboarding competition on Thursday for the first time since winning his third Olympic title in 2018.

White had the second-highest score in halfpipe qualifying at the U.S. Grand Prix in Aspen, Colorado, the first in a series of 2022 Olympic qualifying events that, after Sunday’s finals, will pick back up next season. The finals air live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and Peacock Premium (full stream schedule here).

No Americans can clinch an Olympic spot in Aspen. No riders will be eliminated from Olympic contention, either, but it’s an opportunity for the 34-year-old White to size himself up against the competition.

In his first run, White landed a double McTwist 1260, a cab double cork 1080 and a frontside 1080, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard, for 91.50 points. He said the run came together perfectly.

“A little nervous. Obviously it’s been a minute,” said White, who took by far his biggest break from snowboarding competition while briefly bidding to make the Tokyo Olympic team in skateboarding. “I’m like, I know how to do this, but I’m just kind of shaking off the cobwebs of it all. “

He did not attempt a double cork 1440 in his first run back. White landed back-to-back versions of the trick to win the PyeongChang Olympics, attempting the combination at a contest for the first time in his life on his third and final run to overtake Japan’s Ayumu Hirano.

Japan’s Yuto Totsuka had the highest score in Thursday’s qualifying -- 94.25 points -- and has landed double cork 1440s this season. Totsuka emerged in the last two seasons as the clear Olympic favorite, winning the three biggest titles in snowboarding aside from the Olympics -- the Burton U.S. Open, X Games and world championships.

Domestically, White is bidding to become the oldest U.S. Olympic halfpipe rider in history. No Americans stepped up to challenge Totsuka and Australian Scotty James in White’s absence the last three years. No American man made the podium at X Games in 2020 or 2021 after doing so the previous 23 editions of the event in the U.S.

Earlier Thursday, Chloe Kim led women’s halfpipe qualifying with a 93.25-point run.

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