February 13, 2006 08:15 AM

“Flying Tomato” snowboarder Shaun White – so named because of his mane of long, red hair – made an embarrassing admission after winning the Olympic gold medal in Sunday’s men’s halfpipe contest.

“I don’t think I’ve ever really shed some tears at a competition before,” the 19-year-old told reporters. Teammate Danny Kass took the silver; Markuu Koski of Finland, the bronze.

White blamed his emotional reaction on his parents and brother and sister, who met him at the base of the hill with red eyes. “They were all ‘Waa-waa-waa,”’ he said, rubbing his eyes and wailing like a child.

White’s tearful victory came after his overcoming a first-round bobble brought on by first-time jitters over participating at Torino. “I didn’t deal well with pressure on that first run,” said White. “I looked up and saw all the people and thought, ‘Wow, I’m in the Olympics.'”

During his news conference though White displayed much more confidence, using the opportunity to express interest in figure skater Sasha Cohen. “I’m hoping Sasha Cohen dates gold medalists,” White said. Then he joked about his possible pick-up line. “You do a 1080? Yeah, so do I.”

Meanwhile, speedskater Chad Hedrick, 28, claimed the first U.S. medal at the winter games, taking the gold in the men’s 5,000 meters on Saturday. Hedrick was just 2/10ths of a second behind the Olympic Record, finishing at 6:14.48.

“I’m not happy going home with just one gold medal,” said Hedrick, who faces four more events in Torino and still has the chance to tie Eric Heiden’s 1980 record of five gold medals in one Winter Olympics.

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