VANCOUVER -- With a Stars-and-Stripes bandana covering half his face, Shaun White looked about ready to rob a bank.
But the only thing he stole was the spotlight.
In defending his Olympic halfpipe title, the orange-maned maverick flirted with perfection Wednesday at Cypress Mountain. White scored 48.4 out of a possible 50 on his second run, punctuating his dominance by landing the Double McTwist 1260 at the finish.
Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk was among the spectators who witnessed the magical performance.
"Even though that second run was a victory run, that is the run that he came here to do," said Hawk, who knows a thing or two about hanging upside down. "The fact that he had the pressure taken off of him (with a 46.8 in the first run) might've helped, but he had a plan and he followed through with it."
They had to award the silver medal to somebody, but Wednesday's competition was White against the judges. His afternoon qualifying score of 45.8 was never surpassed by another rider.
"Right now, Shaun White is the best rider, for sure," said silver medallist Peetu Piiroinen of Finland. "He's way better than the other riders."
Piiroinen moved up to second from fourth with a 45.0 on his second run.
White's American teammate Scott Lago picked up bronze with a 42.8. The U.S. has now won eight of the 12 Olympic halfpipe medals since the event debuted at Nagano in 1998.
Justin Lamoureux of Ottawa finished seventh after being on the bubble all day. He narrowly survived the semifinal, scoring just one-tenth of a point better than France's Gary Zebrowski. During afternoon qualifying, Lamoureux nabbed his heat's ninth and final spot.
Barely two weeks ago, White took a nasty spill while practising his Double McTwist manoeuvre at Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo. He bounced his face off the lip of the pipe, but suffered no serious repercussions.
World silver medallist Jeffrey Batchelor of Oakville, Ont., failed to move past the qualification stage, as did Brad Martin of Ancaster, Ont. Both Canadians struggled to stick their landings. Martin finished 23rd, while Batchelor was 32nd. Finland's Janne Korpi, the World Cup leader, muffed both of his qualifying runs and placed 24th.
The women's competition takes over the pipe Thursday, with afternoon qualifying followed by the finals in the evening. The Canadian contingent features Sarah Conrad of Dartmouth, N.S.; Mercedes Nicoll of Whistler, B.C.; and Palmer Taylor of Collingwood, Ont. At 17, Taylor is the youngest Canadian Olympian in Vancouver.
-- Canwest News Service