Pyeongchang, South Korea • The Olympics begin and end quite literally with the passing of a torch. During the three weeks in between, everyone seems to be looking for metaphorical torch-passings, too.

Is Red Gerard, the Netflix-binging, oversleeping, can’t-be-rattled 17-year-old American slopestyle gold medalist the next Shaun White? What about Chloe Kim, the live-tweeting, hangry-and-spunky-as-hell teenage halfpipe champion? Is she the next Shaun White? People have been asking that about Japanese snowboarding sensation Ayumu Hirano the same question since he was 13. Hirano is 19 now.

“That’s a lot of pressure and a lot to live up to,” the actual Shaun White said this week. “And I am sitting there saying, ‘What do you mean? I am still here.’”

White is 31 now and in the twilight of his storied career. But with one run here at the Phoenix Snow Park on Wednesday, the American snowboarding legend showed the world he is, for now at least, the real and reigning Shaun White.

With one run left to get back on top of the podium, White put together back-to-back 1440s for the first time in his career, stuck a trick that hospitalized him five months ago, and cemented his already impressive Olympic legacy with his third gold medal.

“It just means the world to me,” White said. “To win in that fashion is something special. All that hard work, the injuries, the ups and downs and the decision to come back after that, it just cemented it. I don’t think you could ever forget this day in the sport of snowboarding. I’m proud I’m on top.”

With his second run, the high-flying Hirano had bumped White out of first place. The American knew he needed to put together a special run, so White decided to try to string together back-to-back 1440s — having never before practiced that combination. He fell.

So there was plenty on White’s mind as he embarked on his third and final run of the day.

“It was crazy deja vu, standing there, the last guy to go and I have to put it down,” he said. “In Sochi, I just didn’t have it in me.”

It had been four years since missed the podium in Sochi, finishing fourth place, since he returned home wondering, “How can I make myself love the sport again?”

White rededicated himself to riding, hiring a new coach and learning an assortment of new tricks, but his journey back was almost derailed in October. White crashed during a training run in New Zealand, when he attempted a “cab double cork 1440”, catching his snowboard on the lip of the halfpipe after four rotations in the air. He split his face open, blood stained the snow and the American had to be taken by helicopter to a hospital for surgery and 62 stitches.

“I [couldn’t] recognize myself in the mirror,” White said. “I’m thinking, What does this mean? We were on such a great path? Do I really want this?”

Some of his friends and family suggested he could walk away.

“You’ve got medals,” they told him.

White wanted more.

At the top of the course Wednesday afternoon, White said time felt as if it were moving slowly, but he already knew in his mind what he would come next.

He dropped in, opening up with one 1440-degree spin and linking straight to another — the cab double cork 1440. He stomped a Skyhook and his signature Tomahawk, and wrapped up his run with a 1280.

“You could come up on any other day when all these people aren’t here and ask me to do that and I’d be terrified because there’s no motivation,” White said. “But when you’ve got the Olympics and the world [is] watching, there was no doubt in my mind I was going to do that trick.”

“I think, personally, it’s the best halfpipe run I’ever ever seen in the history of the sport,” said JJ Thomas, White’s coach and a former Olympian.

At the bottom of the run, he dropped to his knees and cried.

White’s 97.75 had put him back on top, knocking Hirano (95.25) and Australia’s Scotty James (92.00) down one spot each.

“He is without a doubt the best competitive snowboarder to ever walk the face of the earth,” Thomas said. “Hands down. He even surpasses that and goes into the broader category of all-time greats in sport, I think.”

Four years ago, White left the Games bitter and disappointed, contemplating whether he would be coming back again. At the base of the halfpipe on Wednesday, White wiped away tears, took selfies with fans, draped himself in an American flag and said he was already thinking about his next trip to the Olympics and an opportunity to add to his legacy: a chance to win a skateboarding medal in the 2020 Summer Games.