MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. - Shaun White opened his day with a nasty spill and ended it with a ticket to Sochi.
The two-time Olympic gold medallist in halfpipe will get a chance to win one in slopestyle after taking the second of two qualifying events Thursday. The victory came only hours after a face-first crash that left White sitting on the course, stunned, as medics checked him for broken bones.
There were none.
White recovered, grabbed lunch and came out for the second contest, where he nailed three straight jumps with three or more rotations and scored 94.8. He passed on his second run — a strategic move designed to save strength during a long weekend of qualifying — and nobody topped that score.
That made White the top American in two of the four qualifiers and guaranteed a spot on the U.S. Olympic team that, though seemingly preordained, has come with its fair share of injuries and angst.
On Friday, White is expected to ride on the halfpipe and try to secure his spot there. There's another slopestyle contest Saturday, though it's hard to imagine he'll compete in that.
His struggles began Dec. 14, when he tweaked his left ankle during the preliminary heats of the first halfpipe qualifying competition in Breckenridge, Colo. He finished second that day, but pulled out of the slopestyle contest.
The next week in Copper Mountain, he competed in slopestyle, but not halfpipe. After a third-place finish — normally a bummer for someone used to winning everything — he insisted he was satisfied and his coach, Bud Keane, said the only goal is to win golds in Sochi, nowhere else.
Four weeks later, White opened his slopestyle quest on a sunny day in Mammoth with a face-first fall as he attempted a double cork 1080, which is three twists wrapped inside two flips. After being checked out by medics, he made it down the hill under his own power, and tried for the second run. But he under-rotated his first jump and aborted the run, riding slowly to the bottom.
A bad sign for the most famous American athlete left on the U.S. roster now that Lindsey Vonn has scratched.
Unlike Vonn, White didn't endure a season-ending injury, and hours later, he was celebrating after a tricky run.
After reaching the bottom cleanly, he pumped his fists, then fell flat to the ground and covered his face with his hands.
On the women's side, Jamie Anderson won both contests to secure her trip in Sochi.
Ryan Stassel won Thursday morning's event and is now in the mix with Sage Kotsenburg, Chas Guldemond and a handful of others for the final two men's slopestyle spots, which will be decided Saturday. Kotsenburg finished second in both contests and has the inside track on one of the spots.