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Dad's pep talk spurs 'I-Pod'

Updated: 2014-02-13 08:29
By Reuters in Rosa Khutor, Russia ( China Daily)

Dad's pep talk spurs 'I-Pod'

Swiss boarder's dazzling second run leaves US favorite without a medal

A blunt critique from his father provided the spark that led Iouri Podladtchikov to snatching Shaun White's snowboard halfpipe title in one of the biggest upsets of the Sochi Olympics on Tuesday.

The Russian-born Swiss has a repertoire of tricks almost on par with the two-time American Olympic champion, but has often failed to pull them off on the big stage.

That looked to again be the case in the first qualifying run at Rosa Khurtor Extreme Park, when the man known on the circuit as 'I-Pod' crashed and faced the ignominy of an early exit.

Then his dad spoke out.

"My second qualification was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, it was the gnarliest thing," said the 25-year-old.

"My dad said: 'Russia ... you ... all that pressure - and you are not even going to end up going to the semifinals. You are screwing up!'"

The 25-year-old responded with a run good enough to reach the semifinals, then qualified for the final before lighting up the night with a brilliant run to win gold.

"When I got it right it felt like anything was possible and from then on I was building another little piece every run," he said.

"A day that started really, really low for me ended at the highest point possible."

That high point included a perfect execution of his trademark YOLO - or "You Only Live Once" - flip, which White had added to his own bag of tricks to great effect.

"When I saw videos of Shaun doing it really well I was really bummed because it was my trick and he was already doing it better than me," Podladtchikov said.

Dad's pep talk spurs 'I-Pod'

"But today I guess I was doing it better."

His relationship with White is good, he said, mainly because they recognize in each other a desire to push the boundaries of their sport.

"He said congrats; I think he was happy for me," Podladtchikov said.

"We want each other to win because we are trying different things."

White had little to celebrate after finishing fourth behind two Japanese teenagers, but said he shared an experimental spirit with Podladtchikov.

"I have known him for a couple of years now," said the American.

"He is a really great guy, always smiling, always happy, and he deserves a big win like this, he's been pushing it hard.

"It is nice to see someone stepping up and doing new tricks, pushing the envelope of what is possible in the halfpipe. Congrats, man!"

Podladtchikov was born in Moscow before leaving Russia for the Netherlands at the age of four and moving on to Switzerland when he was eight.

His cosmopolitan upbringing was much in evidence when he answered questions at his news conference in fluent Russian, English and German, only tripping up when he was asked to speak in Dutch.

The land of his birth, though, clearly exerts a major pull and he described winning gold in Russia as "beautiful".

"It's insane to hear Russian, and I love to speak Russian. It reminds me of so many things from my childhood," he said.

(China Daily 02/13/2014 page24)