So last week an hour-long documentary following Shaun White’s quest for Olympic glory aired on American television. We’ve tracked it down, enjoyed it and studiously made notes of our findings. The morning after, here’s what we can decipher from our muddled handwriting.
First things first, let it be known that this is how Shaun White wants to be seen, as an executive producer he gets the final say on what goes in and what ends up on the cutting room floor.
Despite his accomplishments, White is a divisive figure in snowboarding and it’s clear that some of his rivals aren’t fans – Mark McMorris’ reaction at the Winter X-Games 2013 Press Conference is pretty clear.
The Games were mixed for White. As you’d expect from a terminal winner, he holds himself to high standards. After crashing out of X-Games Slopestyle he’s clearly distraught. He later wins gold in the Superpipe for the seventh time in a row to make up for it.
Though seemingly quite distant from the world of snowboarding, White is concerned with how he’s perceived. Even though he’s only 27 he’s already considering his ‘snowboarding legacy’.
To cement his place in history he’s going to extraordinary lengths. Snowboarding is increasingly becoming a serious professional sport, not just a lifestyle, with White leading the charge. His array of vitamins and special diet drinks is testament to that.
He’s still got time to learn manage some self-improvement and is currently learning Spanish. El Blanco indeed.
It becomes clear that Shaun values the Olympics more highly than X-Games. Having dominated the X-Games for so long he’s eager to achieve prominence outside of snowboarding with a third Olympic gold.
Unsurprisingly, White is exceptionally driven. He talks about all the things he’s forsaken – birthdays, parties, relationships – to be the best he can be. It’s hard not to sympathise. Where most snowboarders see a lifestyle, he pushes everything aside for ‘faster, higher, stronger.. and bigger, way bigger’.
Along with the usual exercises he’s willing to try something a little different to ensure success – a dip in a near freezing Lake Tahoe for instance.
It’s still reassuring to see that he struggles with tricks like the rest of us mortals. However, while we’re toiling away with 360s and rails he’s in a strop about triple corks.
And it even brings him to tears.
Unlike most of his contemporaries, Shaun White has a full time coach. A man who may just be the most annoying person alive – “Triple! Triple! Sochi,” seems to be the extent of his vocabulary.
It doesn’t stop with a coach. There’s a hell of a lot of infrastructure behind Team White including this Mars Rover contraption.
Part of the documentary follows White through the other areas of his life, including touring with his band, Bad Things, where he seems to have a lot more fun.
On his whirlwind tour he also visits the White House. Obama’s house seems to have a skatepark out the back and White shreds pretty well in his suit.
Back on the snow, the cracks seem to be showing in the ‘Shaun White Aura of Invincibility’. When he watches one of his rivals, Iouri Podladtchikov stomp a trick he can’t figure out he looks pretty worried.
White reveals, he’s constantly driven by others. In his words: “you run fastest when you’re getting chased”. He has a special halfpipe built in Australia to help master his rivals tricks – which he does.
Which makes him pretty darn happy:
Despite bolstering his trick arsenal, Shaun White is no longer untouchable on the slopes. At the 2013 Dew Tour he crashed out of the Slopestyle, losing his first halfpipe competition since 2010 putting his Olympic qualification in doubt.
But he’s still pretty clutch. Even with a dodgy ankle, when the time comes White stomps the runs he needs. A week after disaster at the Dew Tour he kills it in Mammoth to qualify for the Olympics.
Oh, and he’s still a halfpipe phenomenon.
And he may just have something special in the bag for Sochi, though due to some poor editing the credits come in before he lands it.