Winter Olympics: Games snowboarding champion Shaun White contrite after taking umbrage at sexual harassment questioning

PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA (AFP) - Snowboard king Shaun White apologised on Wednesday (Feb 14) after he dismissed sexual harassment allegations as "gossip" following his third Winter Olympic gold medal.

The 31-year-old American was criticised in US media after brushing off questions regarding an out-of-court settlement with Lena Zawaideh, the former drummer in his band, Bad Things.

"Honestly, I'm here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip," White said following his win in the halfpipe event.

White, starting last in the halfpipe, watched bronze medallist Scotty James wipe out before nailing a spectacular last run of the day to snatch victory from Japan's Ayumu Hirano and celebrated wildly afterwards.

It was redemption for White, known as the "Flying Tomato" because of his red hair, who won gold in 2006 and 2010 and helped put the hipster sport on the map, but flopped in Sochi four years ago.

At a US Olympic Committee post-event news conference, White also only took questions from male reporters.

Christine Brennan, the award-winning USA Today sports writer whose attempts to ask a question were ignored, later described the press conference as an "embarrassment".

However in remarks to NBC TV's "Today" show aired in the US early on Wednesday, White apologised for his "gossip" comment.

"It was a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject in the world today," White told the programme.

"And, you know, I'm just truly sorry. And I was so overwhelmed with just wanting to talk about how amazing today was and share my experience."

According to American media reports, Zawaideh filed a lawsuit against White in August 2016, alleging repeated sexual harassment and an "authoritarian" management style.

The lawsuit alleged White bombarded Zawaideh with "sexually disturbing" videos, vulgar remarks and explicit text messages.

In his interview with "Today", White said he was a "changed person".

"I've grown as a person over the years," he said. "I definitely feel like I'm a much more changed person than I was when I was younger. I'm proud of who I am today," he added.