KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Even more than 12 hours after Iouri Podladtchikov unseated Shaun White to win the men's snowboard halfpipe here, I am still struck by one thing – his completely unfiltered joy.
While he made his way through the broadcast row at the base of the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park halfpipe last night, he routinely screamed with joy. He lifted his coaches off the ground when he hugged them.
As he tried to leave the mixed zone to take his drug test, Podladtchikov was joyfully followed by dozens of fans seeking his autograph or a photo. He soaked it up.
In his press conference, he made jokes, gleefully demanded questions and then said to make them less technical because he could not think and invited reporters to follow in the party that surely came after this win.
"I'm about to faint. I haven't seen gold yet, so I don't believe it," he said.
Asked if he could have won without the YOLO flip, a switch frontside double cork 1440 that only he and White can do, Podladtchikov said, "Yes. Just with my looks I could have won."
Even among a notoriously quotable group of athletes, Podladtchikov stands out. If he has a filter, I have not seen it.
Unlike many American riders who shudder at talking about White, Podladtchikov is candid in his respect for him, his desire to beat White and just how difficult that is.
For anyone accustomed to the canned speak of North American pro or collegiate sports, his honesty is refreshing. White missing the podium made the event major news, but Podladtchikov made it a joy to cover.