It was a bit of a surprise when U.S. snowboarding champion Shaun White advanced to the finals in the halfpipe competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
The three-time gold medalist came to the Games as a 35-year old underdog. A consummate competitor, White thrived under the pressure, overcoming a fall in his first run down the halfpipe to make it through to the final round of his fifth Olympic Games. It was a bittersweet moment, though, because White has said the Beijing Games will be his last Olympics and his final contest.
White wiped out on what could be the last run he ever makes in competition—ensuring he would miss the medal podium. Afterwards, he was clearly emotional, tearing up as he awaited his final score. Japan’s Hirano Ayumu took gold, with Scotty James of Australia with silver, and Swiss rider Jan Scherrer with the bronze.
“This is it for me,” White told reporters. The five-time Olympian said he was experiencing difficulty in his back leg during the run. “Maybe it was the pressure, maybe it was just exhaustion,” he said.
White was never a favorite to win the gold, but there’s no denying his ability to surprise, particularly in high-pressure situations. White’s first run put down a score of 72.00—enough for fourth place. His second run was clean, netting him an 85.00, putting him temporarily in 2nd place. However, monster moves by James and Hirano knocked him into fourth going into the third and final run. He retained that position through the end of the event.
But White said he was not upset about missing the podium even though he wanted to win “so badly.” White has made a huge impact on the sport—his three gold medals make him the most decorated Olympic snowboarder ever. Even in his final Games, he made history as the oldest male halfpipe rider ever to participate in Olympic competition.
“All my fellow competitors were so kind,” he said. “A lot of them patted me on the back and told me that the tricks in the sport wouldn’t be where it is today without my pushing, and I want to thank them for having me and supported me and let me do my thing.”
White was born in San Diego, with a heart defect that required two operations before he was the age of 2. Overcoming that difficulty, White first tried snowboarding at the age of 6. According to his profile on the Olympics website, it was an attempt to keep up with his older brother, Jesse. He also started skateboarding around the same time—and for the same reason.
At just 7 years old, White landed his first endorsement deal with Burton, a snowboarding apparel and equipment company. He went pro at age 13 and by the age of 15 was trying to qualify for Team USA, missing the cutoff by just 0.3 points.
Here’s a look at all White’s previous Olympic performances—and medals:
2006: Gold in Torino
In 2006, the then-19 year old stormed onto the Olympic scene, earning the nickname of “The Flying Tomato” thanks to his long red hair. He won gold in the halfpipe at Turin 2006, after staging a stunning comeback.
The California native also competes in skateboarding and won a gold medal at the X Games in 2007, a feat he repeated in 2011. He is the most decorated X Games athlete and the first athlete to compete in both the Winter and Summer X Games.
2010: Gold in Vancouver
At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, White secured the gold with his first run. On his second turn, he debuted a new trick, the Double McTwist 1260. It’s a high-flying twist that has become his trademark, one that he even used to qualify for the finals at the Beijing Games.
2014: Fourth in Sochi
White had a disappointing finish in the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, where he placed fourth in his signature half-pipe event. Controversy has clouded some of White’s legacy. He was accused of sexual harassment while at the Games, reaching an undisclosed settlement in 2017.
2018: Gold in PyeongChang
Just months out from the 2018 Winter Olympics, White fell during practice in New Zealand, a crash that resulted in 62 stitches and missing a month of training. Despite that setback, White scored a perfect 100 in his qualifying event earning a spot at the Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. There, he landed back-to-back 1440s—a jaw-dropping move that requires four full aerial revolutions—to help secure his third gold medal. The win not only put White in the history books, but White’s gold medal was the 100th American gold medal in all of Winter Olympics history.
While vying for a spot at the 2022 Games at the U.S. Grand Prix in January, White not only qualified for his fourth Olympic team but also scored a perfect 100—the second perfect score of his career.
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