SOCHI, Russia — Even in the wildest, proudest moment, in the land of his birthplace, the fast-racing mind of Iouri Podladtchikov darted around and landed in an unexpected place.
He wondered about snowboarding icon Shaun White. How would the face of the sport handle a devastating loss at the Olympics?
"I've never seen him like this," Podladtchikov said. "I wondered what he would be like."
Not only was it a loss for White, the two-time defending Olympic halfpipe champion failed to make the podium, finishing fourth. The charismatic Podladtchikov, neatly known as I-Pod, won gold Tuesday for Switzerland but there was an extra twist because he was born in Russia and spent his early years here.
Japanese teammates Ayumu Hirano and Taku Hiraoka went two-three, giving Rosa Khutor Extreme Park a changing-of-the-guard-type feel because the silver medalist is only 15 years old.
White came to Sochi hoping for two gold medals and to be the first U.S. male to win the same event at three straight Olympics. But he leaves empty-handed, words you rarely see associated with his storied career.
"I don't really think tonight makes or breaks my career," said White, who withdrew from the earlier slopestyle contest. "I've been snowboarding for so long and I love it and it's given me so much. I'm happy to take this for what it is.
"I tried to win. I went for big tricks that only Iouri and myself are doing. It just wasn't my night, which is really tough to say. I'm OK with it."
American teammate Danny Davis thought that fourth might have been an overly kind assessment of White's night. White spilled twice in the first run and had issues with his landings on the second, preventing him from pulling out his best tricks.
"Fourth was a gift," Davis said. "First of all, it's good for snowboarding. Now everybody knows there are other good riders in the world."