Chloe Kim and Hirano Ayumu cruise to halfpipe win in Laax

Olympic reigning champion Kim won her sixth straight contest since returning last season. In the men's event, fellow PyeongChang gold medallist Shaun White made his first World Cup podium in five years.

By Ockert de Villiers

Reigning Olympic women's snowboard halfpipe champion Chloe Kim of the United States highlighted her class with her fourth victory at the Laax Open with a score of 90.25 points. Kim was the only rider to score above 90 points which she scored on her first run.

Highlighting her supremacy in her pet event, the two-time world champion has not lost a Halfpipe World Cup since the beginning of 2018.

In Laax, she was followed by rising Japanese star Mitsuki Ono in second place with a score of 89.00 points and Spain's Queralt Castellet (80.00 points).

With the win already in the bag, Kim looked to put down a bold victory run but fell halfway through her second run, missing a chance for a big exit.

"I really wanted to do something new for you guys (Laax spectators). I am so bummed I couldn't put it down," Kim said in an interview on the Laax Open live stream.

Shaun White closer to his fifth Games after podium in Laax

Three-time Olympic champion Shaun White made an emphatic case for his fifth Olympic Winter Games appearance reaching his first World Cup podium since 2018.

Victory belonged to Japanese pacesetter Hirano Ayumu, but all attention was on White, who finished third. In doing so, White demonstrated he had not lost his medal-winning temperament.

White made a last-minute decision to compete in Laax to convince US selectors he should be chosen to represent the country at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games in February.

Hirano secured his second Halfpipe World Cup victory of the year with a superb first-run score of 93.25 points. Swiss rider Jan Scherrer delighted the home crowd when he clinched the silver medal on his second run with a total of 90.00 points.

The 35-year-old White took a measured approach to his first run, which ultimately paid off as he induced a score of 84.00 points and with that his first World Cup medal since 2018. White last earned the top step of the podium at the Aspen Snowmass, receiving a perfect 100.

Shaun White bound to Beijing: 'I am a competitor!'

White told Olympics.com last week that he was recovering from the virus, which had hampered his efforts to secure a fifth Olympic berth.

Halfway through last week’s U.S. Grand Prix in Mammoth Mountain, White withdrew from the competition due to what was believed to be lingering Covid-19 side effects, such as fatigue and shortness of breath.

“I wasn’t myself through the season, then, unfortunately, I got COVID-19, that was really hard to get through,” White said in an interview on the Laax Open live stream.

“I was having such a good time, and when I arrived, I was like ‘you know, this is such a good call’. I got to ride with some old friends of mine, the weather was unbelievable, the pipe was incredible.”

A reinvigorated White said as an ‘older man’ he took a cautious approach on his second run but would not set his sights on finding a way to return to the top of the podium.

“I am just so happy to hit the podium and be part of this. Now it’s all about ‘how do we win’?” White said.

“I’ve been trying to make the team, trying to stay healthy, trying to stay strong and motivated, and at this point, it’s all about what I can do now to get that top spot.

"I see where the level is at and where I need to be, and it is great. I am a competitor, and I want it!"

The three-time Olympic champion is now the second best-ranked U.S. male snowboarder and this World Cup medal gave his chances of reaching his fifth Olympic Winter Games, and a shot at a fourth gold medal at the global showpiece, a serious boost.

While White looks set to make the U.S team, his fate remains in the hands of his country's coaches, who will meet next week and will submit the official nominees for Team USA by 21 January.

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