Shaun White, the master of the unexpected
The two-time and reigning Olympic halfpipe champion, Shaun White continues to innovate as he prepares to defend his title in Sochi, where the American will also go for gold in another of his favourite events, slopestyle, which will be making its Olympic debut.
Shaun White is sure to have a surprise or two in store at Sochi 2014, though he has already taken his fans aback by cropping the flowing red locks that earned him the nicknames of Flying Tomato and Red Zeppelin. “My helmet fits better now,” he said in reference to his sleek new haircut. “It was 12 to 13 inches long, a lot of weight. I can go higher [on the halfpipe] now.”
The undisputed king of the board – be it on snow or rollers – White certainly wowed the watching world at Vancouver 2010, where he busted out his ground-breaking Double McTwist 1260. A perilous trick involving two flips, three and a half spins and a grab for added style, it took him soaring more than eight metres over the coping, brought massive roars of approval from the crowd and helped him top score in the halfpipe final and land a second straight Olympic gold medal. White had perfected the trick, which he calls The Tomahawk, on a secret halfpipe built away from prying eyes in the mountains of Colorado.
When he is not breaking out his tricks, White can be found playing lead guitar in the rock group Bad Things. “I’ve been doing snowboarding since I was six years old and I went pro at 13,” he said. “To keep that fun and exciting you need to take a break from it.” In early August 2013 he showcased his guitar solo skills at the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago before taking off in the autumn for the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, Australia, where he has been practising yet more new aerials on a specially constructed halfpipe. As part of his preparations for Sochi 2014 he will also be focusing on slopestyle, which will be on the Olympic programme for the very first time.
A fresh challenge
“Each time is its own time,” he said of his Games appearances. “I was 19 at the first one (in 2006) and I didn’t know what it meant to be an Olympian. I didn’t know what it meant to win a gold medal. The second time in Vancouver, I knew what was going to happen and I really wanted to go and do it again, to cement who I was. This time around it’s completely different again because there’s another event involved. My priority is to hang on to my halfpipe title.”
As well being a double Olympic champion, the 27-year-old White has amassed 13 Winter X Games halfpipe and slopestyle titles and has won a couple of X Games skateboarding crowns to boot. Though he has heaped praise on 14-year-old Japanese rider Ayumu Hirano in naming him as one of his main rivals in Sochi, White has absolutely no intention of being upstaged, telling his many fans around the world to “expect the unexpected”.