Shaun White is back and looking to shock the snowboarding world.
Casual fans might be surprised to hear that White, who has become one of the faces of the Winter Olympics since he won gold as a 19-year-old, is entering the 2022 Winter Olympics an underdog, looking to muster some of that same magic as when he won his first gold in Turin.
The 35-year-old took a three-year hiatus following his gold medal run in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics before returning to the slopes in 2020. A few equipment snags, a bout with COVID-19 and several underwhelming showings later, White returned to the podium at the Laax Open in Switzerland just weeks before the Beijing Olympics to secure a spot based on rankings to represent the U.S. in the men’s halfpipe.
Here’s how to watch Shaun White in his final Olympic appearance before he hangs up the board.
How did Shaun White get involved in snowboarding?
Raised in Southern California, White grew up traveling between the slopes and the skateparks. Initially a skier, he traded in his skis for a snowboard at 6 years old and never looked back.
White took to the sport quickly, landing sponsorship deals within a year. He remained prolific in both snowboarding and skateboarding, drawing the attention of Tony Hawk, and winning titles at both the Winter and Summer X Games.
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How many Olympic medals has Shaun White won?
White has three Olympic gold medals to his name, the most of any snowboarder in Olympic history.
In Turin, his Olympic debut, White was nearly eliminated in the qualifying rounds before mounting a strong second run to advance to the finals and win gold. At 19, he was the youngest-ever gold medalist in men’s snowboarding, a record that has since been broken by fellow American Red Gerard in PyeongChang.
His second gold medal came in decisive fashion. After locking up the gold medal in the first run of the finals, White opted to complete the second run, posting a score of 48.5 out of 50.
White traveled to the 2014 Sochi Games with the hopes of completing a historic run -- becoming the first snowboarder to win three consecutive gold medals as well as the first snowboarder to win gold in two different events at the same Olympics. However, he withdrew from slopestyle two days before the competition and fell short of the podium on the halfpipe, finishing fourth and returning to the U.S. empty-handed, an experience he later said you never really “get over.”
Despite speculation that he might retire following the 2014 Winter Olympics, White returned to Team USA to compete in PyeongChang. Down a full point to Japan’s Ayumu Hirano heading into the final run, White connected on back-to-back 1440s to win his third Olympic gold medal and the 100th medal for Team USA in PyeongChang.
How did Shaun White qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics?
True to form, White’s qualification for the 2022 Winter Olympics came with its fair share of drama.
Returning from a three-year hiatus following the 2018 Olympics, White struggled to execute at the same level as before. In the last three automatic qualifying events, White didn’t crack the top seven, even withdrawing from the Mammoth Mountain in January due to “lingering COVID-19 symptoms, including fatigue and shortness of breath.”
He ultimately punched his ticket to Beijing on world rankings, secured with a third-place finish in Switzerland, his first podium finish since PyeongChang. White confirmed his bid with a celebratory tweet.
How old is Shaun White?
White turned 35 this past September.
In Beijing, he has a chance to become the oldest male snowboarder to win a gold medal, surpassing Canadian Jasey-Jay Anderson who won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games at 34 years old.
What event is Shaun White competing in at the 2022 Winter Olympics?
White is hoping to defend his title as king of the halfpipe, with all three of his Olympic golds coming in that event.
When is Shaun White competing?
White will start his 2022 Olympic journey in the qualification round of the men’s halfpipe on Feb. 8 at 11:30 p.m. ET. If he finishes in the top 12 and advances, the three final rounds will take place on Feb. 10 beginning at 8:30 p.m.
Who has won the most gold medals in snowboarding?
White’s three gold snowboarding medals are the most of any Olympian.
Americans Jaime Anderson, Kelly Clark and Slovakian Zan Sokir are the only other athletes to win three medals. Anderson -- who currently has two golds and a silver -- will have the chance to match White’s gold medal count in Beijing when she competes in the slopestyle and big air events.
Seventeen other snowboarding athletes have won two Olympic medals throughout their careers. For four of the 17, including American Seth Wescott, both medals are gold.
Who is Shaun White’s toughest competition in Beijing?
Two-time silver medalist Ayumo Hirano from Japan is the favorite to claim gold. He made headlines back in December when he became the first ever to successfully land the triple cork in competition at the Dew Tour at Copper Mountain. His Japanese teammate Yuto Totsuka and Ruka Hirano could also find their way onto the podium.
Australia’s Scotty James will also be looking to return to the podium after winning bronze in PyeongChang. The 27-year-old also seems to have lost a step as of recent, finishing 11th at the Laax and suffering several falls.
What is the schedule for snowboarding at the 2022 Winter Olympics?
Snowboarding kicks off on Feb. 4 and runs through Feb. 15 with a two-day break between the finals of the men’s halfpipe and the mixed team cross.
Is Shaun White retiring after the 2022 Winter Olympics?
After dropping hints that Beijing would likely be his swan song, White recently confirmed his intention to retire following the 2022 Winter Olympics. He said he initially hoped to end his career where it all started -- Italy -- but the last year of training gave him the clarity to make Beijing his final curtain call.
“I feel like I’m making the right decision, and it wasn’t something taken lightly,” White said in an interview with Rolling Stone. “But, yeah, definitely, I’m done after this one.”