In a sport where youth can trump experience, three-time Olympic gold medal-winning snowboarder Shaun White wears his age as a “badge of honor” as he vies to compete at a fifth Olympics.
The American was 19 when he picked up his first gold at the Turin Games in 2006 and cemented his legacy as the most successful snowboarder of all time when he triumphed in dramatic fashion at the Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018.
Now 35 years old and hoping to compete in the Beijing Games next year, the Californian said he is adapting to his status as the elder statesman of his sport.
“I’ve been the youngest competitor as long as I can remember, but I wear it now as somewhat of a badge of honor in a sense,” White told reporters at the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee media summit. “To be on top of a sport that’s ever-changing and for this amount of time, it’s been a challenge.”
Staying on top has been as much a mental challenge as a physical one, he said, after settling for fourth place at the Sochi Games in 2014 and having to once again harness his passion for competing.
White clinched gold in 2018 on his final run in the halfpipe final, earning a 97.75 for a spectacular display.
“In Sochi, I’d lost something; I’d lost this edge that I had,” White said. “It was [a] really emotional and sort of heavy journey to find that again.”
The 13-time Winter X Games champion had once hoped to compete in the debut Olympic skateboarding competition at the Tokyo Games, but dropped his bid early last year, deciding that he was not ready to walk away from snowboarding.
The path has not always been easy. He withdrew from the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado, earlier this year with a knee injury, and said it took him longer to recover from the usual bumps and bruises that come with the high-flying sport.
“I will admit, you know, it is getting harder — just the day in and day out [and] the grind of doing these tricks,” White said. “I took a really bad crash a couple of days ago and I remember I would just kind of like bounce back up and feel great, but I’m like: ‘Ooo might need a couple more days rest before I get back out there.’”
However, he said he would not rule out another Olympic bid, after updating almost every part of his routine from how he practices and spends his time on the hill to how he approaches his diet and sleep.
“I always say it might be [the last] just because it is how it feels,” he said. “Time kind of keeps moving on and I’m thinking: ‘Gosh, I feel pretty good, I’m motivated, I’m excited,’ and then boom, I’m at the next Olympics, so I wouldn’t count the next one out.”
Places on the US snowboard halfpipe Olympic team are to be allocated based on rankings and performances in qualifying events, US Ski & Snowboard has said.
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