When the men drop into the (hopefully much improved) Olympic halfpipe Tuesday, all eyes will be on Shaun White as he makes his third Olympic bid for gold. But there are more than a few riders who are going to give White a run for his money this go-around. Here are the top contenders for the Sochi podium.
Shaun White, USA
It goes without saying that two-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White is the one to watch Tuesday night in Sochi as the men take to the halfpipe. Here's why: White is by far the fiercest and most flawless competitor out there, working hard to win every event he enters. He has laser-sharp focus on the task at hand, and his one and only task now (since he dropped out of slopestyle last week) is to come home with his three-peat gold medal in pipe. White also out-boosts the other riders in the amplitude department and has a bag of tricks that is deep, with effortless back-to-back 1080s, double McTwist 1260s, and Cab 1440 double corks. With rumors of a triple cork being debuted Tuesday, look to White to secure his Olympic reign in Sochi.
Iouri Podladtchikov, SUI
Russian-born Swiss national Iouri Podladtchikov is hot on the trail of Shaun White and looking to impress his motherland with his signature YOLO flip, a Cab (switch frontside) double cork 1440, which he was the first to land in a competition (X Games Tignes 2013). When I-Pod is on, he can land podium-worthy runs with back-to-back 1080s and 900s. With these tricks paired with a heavily skateboarding-influenced style, he could end up on the podium.
Danny Davis, USA
Coming off his first-ever X Games win, Danny Davis is by far the people's favorite rider to medal in Sochi. Davis is one of the few halfpipe riders to beat Shaun White in the last four years—and he did so way back in 2010. Davis has a unique and ever-changing bag of tricks, pairing technical double corks with large alley-oops and switch methods, distinguishing him from the rest of the flipping and spinning Olympic shredders.
Ayumu Hirano, JPN
Fifteen-year-old Japanese wonder kid Ayumu Hirano came busting onto the scene in 2012-13 with impressive amplitude and a slew of tricks that got the whole world of shred buzzing. This season, a few lackluster runs and a foot injury sustained during X Games Aspen practice last month has put him in the middle of the Olympic pack, but don't count this whippersnapper out just yet. One run resembling the Hirano of last year, filled with double-overhead double corks, could easily put him up in medal contention.
Greg Bretz, USA
Greg Bretz kicked this season off with a bang, winning the first Olympic qualifier and besting a not-so-flawless Shaun White. Since then, Bretz has been on a podium streak, landing somewhere in the top three spots at nearly every event this season with a combination of double cork 1080s and 900s. He has matching 900 and 1080 flat spins, too. Look for a run with no less than three 1080s in Sochi.
More Winter Olympics stories on GrindTV