Snowboard great Shaun White has confirmed he will retire after Beijing 2022.
White, 35, won his first halfpipe gold at Turin 2006 and also took gold at Vancouver 2010 and Pyeongchang 2018. This is his fifth Olympics, but he confirmed at a news conference Saturday this will be his final Games.
“This has all had its amazing glow as I’ve decided this will be my last Olympics,” White said. “I’ve given it my all, there have been some ups and downs on the way to get here. And with that I feel I’ve got stronger and better.
“I’m just so excited about everything. Opening ceremony was incredible. The venue looks incredible. I’m just enjoying every single moment.”
Three-time gold medalist Shaun White, 35, says the Beijing Games will be his last competition. AP Photo/Hugh Carey, File
White added this will likely be his last competition as he usually takes the season off after an Olympic Games.
“After the Olympics I don’t compete much after the Games as there’s so much pressure weighing on you and that relief is warranted,” White said. “I usually take the season off to get excited again, but this will be my last competition.”
He said he’s been dealing with ankle, knee and back issues and they were “little signs” that brought him to “this conclusion” at the end of 2021.
“They were taking away from days in practice, and I was watching the tricks getting heavier and heavier. I was riding down from the halfpipe in Austria, and I got lost, and I had to take this chair back up. And on that chairlift ride, the mountain was closing and I was on my own and I was watching the sun go down, and it hit me: this is it. It was a surreal moment, but very joyous as I watched the sun go down and reflected.”
White said he was feeling “pretty confident” about his prospects at Beijing 2022 and said while he will be reminiscing about old times, he’s still going to be “incredibly competitive” at these Olympics.
White, nicknamed “the Flying Tomato,” will begin his practice on Sunday in Beijing ahead of competing in the halfpipe where qualification starts on Wednesday at the Games.
White also has a remarkable 18 individual Winter X Games medals. When asked what legacy he hopes to leave behind in the sport, he said: “I hope my riding speaks for itself, I’m always trying to push and progress and do the next biggest thing and pick up on what trends are happening in the sport and get ahead of that curve.”
White is soaking in every moment on this fifth Olympics, and over his 45-minute session with the media, he fielded an equal number of questions about his past as about what’s to come over the next seven days and beyond.
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“I have some runs in my head that I’d like to do,” he said. “And it’s all about visualizing and making that happen the ‘day of.'”
Though he refused to take it off the table, those runs probably will not include a triple cork — the three-flip trick that Ayumu Hirano of Japan has landed twice in competition this season, but has not won with, because he could not link another trick to it.
Back in 2013, White worked on that trick for a time. Then, a different jump — the double cork 1440 — became the hottest thing in the halfpipe, so he abandoned the triple to work on that. The rest is history: The 1440 was not enough for him to win in Sochi, but four years ago in Pyeongchang, he linked two of them back-to-back and took his third gold medal.
“I’d never done that combination of tricks before and just put it down to win,” White said. “I mean, it’s a legacy performance.”
His legacy goes well beyond that.
By making a choice that was unpopular in many circles — embracing competition, and embracing the Olympics — he took the entire sport with him and made the whole endeavor more mass-marketable, in large part because every sport needs a star.
He also set the bar in a game that treasures progression above all else. In 2006, he was the first man to land back-to-back 1080s. In 2010, it was the Double McTwist 1260 — “The Tomahawk,” he calls it; it’s a trick that’s still relevant today.
Though others started landing the 1440 and linking two together before him, White did it best, and when the stakes were the highest.
But when asked what would suffice as a “good” Olympics this time around, he wasn’t talking about 1440s or triple corks or gold medals.
This has been a rough season for him — including an ankle injury, a bout with COVID-19, a late, unscheduled trip to Switzerland to secure his Olympic spot and, most recently, a training plan that got thrown off schedule during his stay in Colorado in January.
“I approach every competition as, you’ve got to be content with your own riding,” White said. “And as long as you can go out there and put down your best, and lay it out there, then you can walk away, and in your mind, be good with that.”
White says he’s toggling between trying to enjoy every moment of the last big contest week of his life and knowing there is work to do when the halfpipe opens for training Sunday.
“I’m sort of pinching myself, with how lucky I am to still be here at this age,” he said.
But it’s hard not to look back. He told about how when he was a kid, everything he did, day in and day out, was wrapped around snowboarding. “I don’t know how many kids out there aspire to be a cowboy and then really get to be a cowboy,” he said.
Asked what headline he would put on his career, he said he looks back at the kid he was and thinks the perfect line would be: “We did it!'”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report
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