Shaun White smashed his face into the lip of a frozen halfpipe in October, a gruesome accident that required 62 stitches and threatened to end his career. White, who won the halfpipe gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics Games on Wednesday, could have hung up his snowboard, having accomplished everything he could in his sport: two Olympic gold medals, endorsements, riches, mainstream recognition and appeal.
But White wanted one more shot at the Olympics. He got it and he delivered: with his halfpipe gold medal run at these PyeongChang Olympics, Shaun White becomes the first snowboarder in Olympic history to win three gold medals at the Games.
After falling out of first place during previous runs, White grabbed the gold medal with a score of 97.75 on his blistering third and final run of the event.
American officials may as well set up a medals plaza at the Phoenix Snow Park, home of the snowboarding events at these PyeongChang Olympics. The U.S. has now won gold in four straight medals over four straight days here, making all kinds of history along the way. Red Gerard, 17, became the youngest snowboarding gold medalist on Sunday in the men’s slopestyle event. Jamie Anderson, 27, won the women’s slopestyle event Monday, joining White as the only snowboarders to win two Olympic golds (although with his win Wednesday, White now stands alone with three). On Tuesday, Chloe Kim, 17, warmed hearts with her
tweets about breakfast sandwiches and an awesome aerial display. She’s also the first female snowboarder to land back-to-back 1080s — three full revolutions in the air — at the Olympics.
Wish I finished my breakfast sandwich but my stubborn self decided not to and now I'm getting hangry— Chloe Kim (@chloekimsnow) February 13, 2018
At 31 years old, White is the grandpa of the group. He stormed onto the Olympic scene as “The Flying Tomato” in 2006, a teenager whose shaggy red mane whipped around the Torino Games. (White has since cut the hair, but while in South Korea still managed to grab a nearly $1,000 burger named in his honor). He repeated his gold run in Vancouver, but failed in Sochi, falling twice in his first run and finishing in fourth place. Sochi devastated White. “You don’t ever really get over it,” White told NBC Sports a year ago.
Controversy has clouded Shaun White’s comeback story. Lena Zawaideh, a former drummer in White’s rock band Bad Things, accused White of sexual harassment in a 2016 lawsuit. “White sent sexually explicit and graphic images to Zawaideh of engorged and erect penises, forced her to watch sexually disturbing videos, including videos sexualizing human fecal matter, and made vulgar sexual remarks to her,” the suit said. White’s attorneys have denied the allegations in the past. White and Zawaideh reached an undisclosed settlement in 2017.
What will these allegations mean for White’s athletic career, and legacy more broadly? The snowboarding world, and Americans as a whole, will sort that out over these next few days and weeks.