Steamboat’s Taylor Gold takes fifth in Olympic men’s snowboard halfpipe

Taylor Gold finished fifth in the Olympic men’s snowboard halfpipe in Beijing on Friday, Feb. 10
Joel Reichenberger/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

Taylor Gold has spent the last two-plus years perfecting a run worthy of high scores, praise and maybe, just maybe, an Olympic medal.

In 2020, he became the first and only rider to land a double Michalchuk 1080, also known as the Chuck Taylor. In his top runs, that’s preceded by a switch McTwist. This winter, Gold found some consistency in the sequence, which got him to the 2022 Winter Olympics.

While he nailed his dream run in the men’s snowboard halfpipe finals, it wasn’t enough to compete with the flipping and twisting of the world’s top riders. Gold finished fifth as Japan’s Ayumu Hirano took gold, while Australian Scotty James earned silver and Jan Scherrer of Switzerland took bronze.

Gold didn’t go to Beijing to get a medal, although that would have been incredible. He just wanted to stomp a run he was proud of.

“I just want to go and ride my best,” Gold said in January. “I’d like to make finals and land a run I’m stoked on in finals. I think if I do that, then I’ll have no regrets. That would be a great Olympic experience.”

Taylor’s father, Ken Gold, who still resides in Steamboat, wanted everyone to know that he and Taylor are grateful for all the support he’s gotten from the community over the years.

“People have been asking me if he is disappointed with 5th place and I can tell you just the opposite,” Ken said. “This journey started really right after the 2014 Olympics leading up to (the) Olympic final. Before the start of the Olympics, Taylor said to me ‘Dad, if I can go there and make finals and do the run I’ve wanted to do for years, it will be a success for me, regardless of what the judges do.’ … boy did he do that. That was the best run Taylor had ever done in his life on the biggest stage against the best riders on the planet with the whole world watching and it was a win in every important sense of the word and that’s how he views it.”

On his first attempt in the men’s snowboard halfpipe finals, Gold executed the run to near perfection, aside from a squat after his final hit, and the judges gave him an 81.75, good for first place.

The night was still young, though, with top competitors not even recording a score yet. Medal favorites Scotty James, Ruka Hirano and Ayuma Hirano stumbled on their first runs, so Gold’s score held up through the first round.

Scherrer overtook the Steamboat Springs rider on his second attempt with an 87.25. American Shaun White channeled 2006 energy and put up an 85, bumping Gold into third. Minutes later, Scotty James laid down a 92.5, pushing Gold into fourth.

Ayuma Hirano stunned the world with a run that NBC commentator Todd Richards called, “the best run that’s ever been done on a halfpipe.” The score was arguably more stunning, just 91.75.

Hirano later repeated the run and earned a gold medal-worthy 96.

Either way, Gold was in fifth with one run to go.

The 28-year-old went out to make his run bigger and cleaner, but skidded on the landing of the double Michalchuk 1080 as he did on attempt No. 2. He could do no better than fifth.

Harris commended Gold for his innovation and determination to resist the flips and twists and opt for technically difficult tricks and style.

“It’s one of my favorite runs that I’ve seen tonight,” Richards said. “Just because it’s so different than everybody else’s.”

White was the top-finishing American, taking fourth in his final run as the reigning king of halfpipe. The five-time Olympian and three-time gold medalist welled up as the competition offered him hugs and high fives. White could be heard on the NBC broadcast, coming to terms with the conclusion of his career.

“That’s it,” he said.

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