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Career Retrospective: Shaun White

Career Retrospective: Shaun White

Header image courtesy hypergene

Multi-sport professional. CEO. International superstar. 

Not a bad list of achievements for a guy nicknamed “The Flying Tomato.”

Yup, we’re here today to talk about Shaun White, one of the biggest X Games figures ever and, arguably, one of the largest sports figures in America today… particularly after that 2018 Winter Olympics run. (But more on that in a few.)

Below, we’re going to celebrate Shaun White’s momentous career with a look back at how it all began and what he’s accomplished since. Because while all of you are familiar with him, sometimes a reminder is needed in order to truly appreciate greatness.

 

Early Life 

Shaun Roger White was born on September 3, 1986 in sunny San Diego (also home to Blenders)! Remarkably, he was brought into this world with a congenital heart defect—a Tetralogy of Fallot—and had to endure three operations as a newborn in order to repair his heart. Two of those operations were open-heart before the age of one. You would think, perhaps, that this would lead his parents to be “overprotective” and cautious but, in White’s own words, they “let him find his own limitations.”

 

In his early years, he cut his teeth on the slopes of Bear and Okemo Mountains in Vermont and Southern Cal. At age six and inspired by his older bro, Jesse, he switched from skiing to snowboarding… and that was the turning point. At age seven, he scored his first sponsorship and, intriguingly, Tony Hawk himself befriended him at the tender age of nine at a local skatepark, which would eventually lead to a pro turn in skateboarding at 17.

However, it was at X Games 2000 in Tokyo when he first made his mark on the scene (see video below). While it wasn’t the finish he wanted—the 13-year-old finished 15th in the SBD SuperPipe—it properly introduced him to the world and set the stage for the absurdly kickass career that was to follow. 

 

The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics: A Defining Moment 

One career accomplishment we wanted to split out from the list and shine a light on is, interestingly enough, his most recent: White’s third Olympic halfpipe gold medal—and the 100th overall for Team USA at the Winter Games.

White’s third gold at the event was special for many reasons. It was a tour of personal redemption for White after failing to make the podium at all four years prior. It also came on the heels of near catastrophe, as he suffered a terrible injury while training for Pyeongchang in New Zealand months earlier. That incident saw White crashing onto the lip of the halfpipe and suffering through 62 stitches to his face.

Even though the buildup to Pyeongchang was incredible, the actual event itself exceeded expectations all the same. We watched it live and it was dramatic af. The following is how it went down, in case you forgot:

After a strong start, White was trailing 19-year-old Japanese star, Ayumu Hirano, with a single run left. Hirano scored a 95.25 off the sheer awesomeness of back-to-back 1440s, and White had just fallen on his second run. 

So, how do you beat back-to-back 1440s, a sequence seen as easily one of the hardest in the sport? You nail your own back-to-back 1440s alongside your trademark, signature move, the double McTwist 1260. 

White brought the house down, nabbed an exceptional 97.75 score, and claimed the gold. Relive the moment: 

 

"Here doing it for USA again, not only to be an Olympian again, but to be a gold medalist again is unreal,” White said after the Olympic event. "I'm proud of myself. I don't say that often, you know, it's like I try to bury it down in there so I can stay motivated and hungry for the next competition cause that's just how I do things, but I'm really taking this moment to be proud and thankful, and yeah, it feels great.”

 

Career Accomplishments 

  • Action Sports Tour Champion
  • First person to compete in and win the Winter and Summer X Games in two separate sports
  • Won gold in the snowboard halfpipe event at the 2006, 2010, and 2018 Winter Olympics 
  • First quadruple win streak by a male athlete in one discipline at the Winter X Games (snowboard slopestyle)
  • Won 23 overall medals (15 gold, five silver, three bronze) in 22 X Games appearances 
  • Holds the record for the most X Games gold medals
  • Holds the record for most Olympic gold medals by a snowboarder
  • The only athlete to earn a perfect “100” score in the X Games Superpipe (2012)
  • Won 10 ESPY awards
  • CEO of Shaun White Enterprises
  • Majority stakeholder of the World of X Games’ Air & Style events

 

Quotes

“Cement doesn’t give as much as snow.”

“I can’t stay away from Chinese food. I really love that stuff.”

“You take a crash, you get back up and next time you succeed and that’s a great feeling.”

“I’m not too big on moisturizers and fancy grooming products. I keep my grooming regime nice and simple.”

“If skating got into the Olympics, I would be tempted to hold off on shredding for a year and just skate, to make that my new goal. In that sport, I'm still the underdog.” (Ed. Note: Skateboarding has been added to the Tokyo, Japan 2020 Summer Olympics. It may or may not be a one-time deal.)

“When you think about it, we're strapping strange planks of wood to our feet and launching off of giant snow walls. It's pretty intense.”

“I trip walking down the stairs, but I can skate them probably.”

“You can only jump so far until you break your leg. You can only land so hard until something explodes.”

“I get e-mails from mothers asking me to call their daughters for a date. I have a great life.”

“I’m talking ‘bout Mountain Dews, baby.”


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