American snowboarder Shaun White has been criticised for dragging the American flag in the snow while celebrating his gold metal victory in the men’s half pipe.
Social media users condemned the three-time Olympic gold medallist for letting the flag touch the snow several times while rejoicing his dramatic win at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.
White insisted he had no idea the flag was touching the ground and said he did not mean to be disrespectful.
“I remember being handed the flag but I was trying to put my gloves on and hold the flag and get board,” he told reporters at a press conference afterwards.
“Honestly, if there was anything, I definitely didn’t mean any disrespect. The flag that’s flying on my house right now is way up there. So sorry for that.
“But I’m definitely proud - very proud - to be a part of Team USA and being an American and to be representing for everyone back home.
Critics accused the 31-year-old of disrespecting the American flag on Twitter and some went as far as to label him a “traitor”.
"Shaun White way to be classy. You win the gold medal and then proceed to drag the American flag across the ground. No respect. No excuses for this," said Twitter user, David Sheets.
But others argued it was absurd to be offended by the flag dragging and said the focus should be on his Olympic win.
White descended on to one knee when his score was announced - making it clear that he had regained the gold medal he lost at Sochi 2014.
White, the top qualifier for the event, managed to beat Ayumu Hirano for first place in his third run after trailing the Japanese athlete for the first two rounds. He succeeded in doing two back-to-back 1440-degree spins and finished with a winning score of 97.75.
“I have done when I really needed to, I have delivered when I needed to most. I am so proud of myself, and I never say that," White said.
He later added: “I was so upset with my performance in Sochi and I had to wait so long for this Olympics. There have been so many ups and downs in the process.”
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