Who is Shaun White?
Name: Shaun White
Country: United States
2016/17 World Snowboard Tour ranking: 2nd
- 2-time Olympic halfpipe gold medalist (2006, 2010)
- 8-time X Games halfpipe gold medalist
- 7-time Burton U.S. Open halfpipe champion
One of the biggest stars of the Olympics, White has competed at the past three Winter Games (Torino 2006, Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014). His first two Olympic appearances, both of which came in halfpipe, resulted in gold medals and helped turn him into a household name. But in his most recent outing, White left Sochi without a medal despite qualifying for two different events. After pulling out of slopestyle to focus on halfpipe (which he was heavily favored to win), he crashed on Run 1 and committed several errors on Run 2, keeping him off the podium with a fourth-place finish.
White is still an elite halfpipe snowboarder and looks like the presumptive favorite for PyeongChang, but he hasn't been as dominant in contests as he was leading up to the 2014 Olympics. He's also found a budding rival in Scotty James, who split wins with him at most of the major contests during the 2016/17 season. White still has what it takes to win his third Olympic halfpipe title and will be highly motivated to do so after what happened in Sochi, but riders like James and 2014 Olympic silver medalist Ayumu Hirano will be major threats. White will not be competing in slopestyle.
Potential Olympic records
With two gold medals, White is currently tied for most Olympic snowboarding gold medals all-time. In PyeongChang, he could become the first snowboarder to win three. Vic Wild (parallel giant slalom) and Jamie Anderson (slopestyle and big air) could also potentially hit three gold medals, but White will get first crack at the feat.
There's also a chance that White could leave PyeongChang as the most decorated male Olympic snowboarder ever. At the moment, he is tied with a number of other riders who also have two medals. Vic Wild, Zan Kosir, Benjamin Karl (parallel giant slalom), Stale Sandbech and Mark McMorris (slopestyle and big air) are the other leading contenders in this category. Like White, any of them could run their tally up to three total medals.
First and foremost, White is known for his amplitude. His first-hit backside air has become a staple of his runs and is routinely boosted more than 20 feet out of the pipe. While his first hit is always the biggest, White still maintains strong amplitude throughout the rest of his runs, something that few of his competitors can match. He's also mastered many of the hardest tricks being done in snowboard halfpipe. He was the first to learn the double McTwist 1260 (which he unveiled shortly before the Vancouver Games) and one of the first to land the cab double cork 1440 (a trick he attempted in Sochi but was unable to put down cleanly). At the last contest of the 2016/17 season, White successfully incorporated both of those banger tricks into the same run, setting the stage for the season ahead.
While growing up in Southern California, White's family would make trips to Mammoth Mountain a couple times each year. After originally skiing during those trips, White decided to try snowboarding when he was 6 years old. In order to allow his mother to keep pace with him on the slopes, White would ride switch, something that he says aided his development. At age 7, White entered his first amateur contest and ended up winning. As he began to pursue a career in snowboarding, his family started making six-hour drives to Mammoth each weekend. White was just 13 when he turned pro and made his X Games debut.
In preparation for the 2010 Vancouver Games, White began learning a new trick — a double McTwist 1260. After dialing it in during secret training sessions, he unveiled the trick at the Park City Grand Prix in January 2010, becoming the first person to land it in a competition run.
In March 2017, White broke his own record by winning his seventh Burton U.S. Open men's halfpipe title. It came thanks to what could be considered his best run to-date, as it included both the cab double cork 1440 and the double McTwist 1260.
After leaving Sochi without a medal, White competed sparingly in the ensuing years. Instead, he focused on other endeavors, such as touring with his band and running the Air & Style event series he had purchased shortly before the Olympics. But he was always haunted by what happened in Sochi — White describes it as "a scar," something that remains "with you forever" — and that has pushed him to continue training for another shot at an Olympic title in 2018 (and possibly even 2022).
To aid in his quest for another Olympic gold medal, White made a coaching change in 2015, parting ways with long-time tutor Bud Keene and instead working with former pro snowboarder JJ Thomas, who won bronze in men's halfpipe at the 2002 Games as part of a U.S. sweep.
2016/17 season recap
The season started with White opting to undergo ankle surgery to fix a nagging injury that had troubled him for years. Upon his return, he was confronted by a new threat in the form of Australian snowboarder Scotty James, who had taken a major leap forward. White struggled at his first two events, the Copper Grand Prix (18th) and X Games Aspen (11th). He returned to form with a win at the Mammoth Grand Prix before finishing second behind James at the Olympic test event in Pyeongchang. White closed out the season by winning the Burton U.S. Open, avenging his loss to James in the process.
Off the snow
Many snowboarders participate in skateboarding when they're away from the mountains, but it tends to just be more of a recreational activity. That's not the case for White, who has managed to become a successful crossover athlete with a legitimate competitive career in both sports. His Winter X Games accomplishments are well-touted, but he has also won five medals, including two gold, in skateboard vert at the summer edition of X Games.
White also managed to turn another one of his favorite hobbies, playing guitar, into a career in recent years. He was part of a band, Bad Things, that formed in 2013 but is now no longer active.
Also a businessman, White has been involved in other entrepreneurial ventures such as clothing lines and the Air & Style snowboarding event series. Since purchasing Air & Style in 2014, White has brought the iconic series to North America to the first time in the form of an annual event in Los Angeles and has given it more of a festival vibe, with an emphasis on music rather than just competitions.
"People ask, 'When are you going to get over it?' You know, the loss or whatever. You don’t, you don’t really ever get over it. It’s kind of like you have a scar from falling off a bike, it’s just with you forever. But you learn from it. So it’s a part of me now, which is great. As hard as it was, I’m thankful that it happened because it taught me a lot." – Shaun White on how often he thinks about his result from Sochi (Feb. 2017, NBCOlympics.com)