Shaun White took up snowboarding at the age of six to copy his older brother. Despite some falls, the boy quickly mastered the difficulties of the board, and was taking part in his first amateur competitions barely a year later.
After winning all the events in which he took part, at the age of 13 he became one of the youngest athletes to sign up with a major equipment supplier and turn professional.
By the time he got to Turin for the Winter Games, the young Californian was already known world-wide. He had won several snowboarding titles at the Winter X-Games, as well as most of the major snowboarding competitions. The Olympic Games were the only event missing from what was already a long list of achievements. Shaun therefore trained accordingly so as not to miss this major Olympic occasion.
Sunday 12 February was the day of the half-pipe competition in Bardonecchia. After a fall in the first set of heats, Shaun needed to produce a great performance to reach the final. He obtained his place in the final by finishing seventh in the heats, with a score of 45.3.
In the first leg of the final, he showed the full range of his talent, with an array of figures and difficulties in the half-pipe. The judges appreciated his succession of backside air, 1080° and other haakon flips. The snowboarder was awarded the excellent mark of 46.8 points out of a possible 50, and finished in first place.
Before starting his second run, Shaun saw his opponents’ results and knew that he was already the Olympic champion. He was able to enjoy the moment to the full, and offer the spectators a splendid display of rotations with great amplitude and style.
Below him on the podium were his compatriot, Daniel Kass, already the silver medallist at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, and the reigning world champion, Finland’s Markku Koski.
With this Olympic title, at the age of 20, Shaun White earned his place among the greats of his discipline. He is also an excellent skateboarder and enjoys surfing when his schedule allows.
Four years of experience
For Shaun White, the four years between the Games in Turin and those in Vancouver were a time of confirmation. He was the best and most spectacular half-pipe snowboarder in the world. In Vancouver, everyone was impatient to see his second Olympic performance. This time, White made no mistakes, and was already leading after the heats with a score of 45.8 points out of a possible 50. The first run of the final was more of an exhibition, with White finishing four points ahead of his nearest rival, with a score of 46.8 points.
When a flying tomato throws a tomahawk
The “Flying Tomato”, his nickname due to his hair colour, knew that he was the Olympic champion even before the second run. Nobody could beat his score from the first run. In front of a cheering crowd, White produced jumps more than eight metres high. He finished a demonstration full of technique and amplitude with an amazing “double McTwist 1260”, a figure which only he can perform and which he has named the Tomahawk. The judges awarded him the record score of 48.4 points. White could celebrate: he was now a double Olympic champion.