Shaun White, at 31, has carved himself out to be a legend in the field of snowboarding, no pun intended. From his humble beginnings as an amateur to his current status as a gold medalist making his triumphant return in Pyeongchang, one thing is for sure. Everyone will be watching Shaun White tonight, and the odds are, he will not leave us disappointed.
Let’s take a look back at Shaun’s prolific career, his ups and downs, his life on and off the slopes, and his most memorable moments.
Shaun’s Early Life & Humble Beginnings
Shaun White, now 31, was born in 1986 and grew up with his family in San Diego. Shaun overcame his first obstacle before the age of one; he was born with a congenital heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot. Tetralogy of Fallot is “a heart defect that features four problems. They are: a hole between the lower chambers of the heart; an obstruction from the heart to the lungs; the aorta (blood vessel) lies over the hole in the lower chambers; and the muscle surrounding the lower right chamber becomes overly thickened,” explains the American Heart Association.
As a result, Shaun had to undergo two open-heart surgeries before the age of one. Of course, the surgeries were successful, and Shaun’s athletic abilities were evident from a very young age. The Whites traveled extensively, and Shaun enjoyed skiing with his parents all over the country, particularly in Ludlow, Vermont and San Bernardino, California. Energetic, enthusiastic and talented, young Shaun was unstoppable.
So, how did young’s parents harness all of that energy in such a small package? From skiing to skateboarding, Shaun loved to be on his feet, on a board, or in the air.
How a Young Gold Medalist Was Made
When Shaun was just nine years old, he decided to focus his undeniable abilities on skateboarding, and it wasn’t long before people took notice of the tiny red-headed child who seemed to be able to defy gravity. One person who took notice in particularly was none other than skateboarding legend and guru Tony Hawk, who was extremely impressed by nine-year-old Shaun’s skills, and he became somewhat of a guru and a mentor to Shaun, taking him under his wing.
As a result, Shaun became a pro skateboarder at the age of 17, when most of us have barely gotten our driver’s licenses. Shaun subsequently won the title of Action Sports tour Champion, and competed in (and won) the Summer and Winter X Games, competing in skateboarding and snowboarding. It was around 2006 when Shaun earned his nickname the “Flying Tomato” due to his shock of red hair.
Shaun also became a business mogul before reaching adulthood, with various business ventures from video games to a clothing line. From investments to sports, Shaun has always been fearless. Shaun’s wins are practically countless; “through 2009, he has won 14 medals at Winter X, including nine gold medals, all in superpipe and slopestyle between 2003-09. White also competes in skateboarding, having won a full set of medals in vert at the X Games, with a gold medal in 2007. Since the formation of the Winter Dew Tour in 2006, he has dominated that circuit. White is an icon among young snowboarders for his various tricks, huge air, and his free-spirit style,” reports sports-reference.com.
A more technical look at Shaun’s competitive record, via sports-reference.com is as follows:
The Challenges Shaun Faced And The Obstacles He Overcame
As his stellar career has continued to skyrocket, Shaun White has continued to appear unstoppable, untouchable and invincible. However, we were all recently reminded that Shaun is, in fact, mortal when he sustained a gruesome injury in New Zealand which almost prevented him from making it to Pyeongchang.
What happened to Shaun in New Zealand? “Shaun White was snowboarding in New Zealand when he took off a millisecond early on a double cork 1440 and came down hard, smacking the lip of the halfpipe at an awkward angle. But that wasn’t the worst part. After the initial impact, his board dug in and whipped him forward, face-first, into the icy surface. Blood ran across the snow. A helicopter was summoned,” explains The LA Times.
Shaun woke up in the hospital in an immense amount of pain and 62 stitches on his face. While his future seemed uncertain at the time, he made a remarkable recovery. Physical injuries notwithstanding, the accident also caused Shaun’s confidence to take a hit. It shook him to his core, but in true Shaun White fashion, he recovered.
Shaun also has gotten himself into a little trouble in the past, such as when he was arrested in 2012 for public intoxication while at the wedding of Patrick Carney of The Black Keys. So, despite a few setbacks, it’s safe to say that Shaun White has bounced back in a major way, and still holds America’s hearts.
What The Future Holds
What does the future hold for someone who has accomplished so much at age 31? In Shaun’s case, a lot. In fact, his Olympic career is far from over, according to reports. Though next time, it might not be snowboarding; he might be returning to his roots as a skateboarder. Of course, let us not forget that Shaun is a pro, and he is far from starting from scratch.
“The world’s best-known snowboarder tells The Associated Press he’s exploring competing at the Tokyo Summer Olympics in skateboarding, which will be added to the program for 2020,” White told Business Insider.
Currently, White has two gold medals under his belt and could very well earn a third tonight. Could there be even more gold medals in White’s future, this time as a skateboarder? Given his track record, it would not be in the least bit surprising. Is there anything Shaun can’t do?
Shaun’s Life Off of The Slopes
Well, what does the Flying Tomato do while he’s not on the slopes or the halfpipe? For one thing, Shaun enjoys spending time with his long-term girlfriend Sarah Barthel, lead singer of the band Phantogram.
If you are unfamiliar with Phantogram, check them out; they are pretty fantastic.
His personal life aside, Shaun has proven to have a heart of gold through his philanthropic endeavours. Specifically, he started the Shaun White Foundation, which benefits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
As microgiving elaborates:
“Shaun White’s foundation in charity work begins with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a pediatric cancer research center known around the world. He first became involved with the Target House and St. Jude in 2009 when he designed a rock-and-roll themed room for the house. He has been active with the charity ever since, and works with the Target corporation for home and clothing lines as well. The hospital’s goal is to find cures for childhood cancer and save lives. No family at St. Jude has to pay for medical treatment, thanks in part to celebrities like Shaun White, as well as regular folks who make it possible through generous donations. If you’d like to make a more personal donation to someone who is experience a medical crisis, visit the MicroGiving.com medical treatment fundraisers.”
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Shaun’s commitment to charitable work and fundraising. He is actively involved with the following organizations, courtesy of microgiving:
“Tony Hawk Foundation
The Tony Hawk Foundation is another popular Shaun White charity. He has supported the event called Stand Up for Skateparks by performing for the cause in 2012. That year’s event raised $979,000 to help build skateparks in communities across the country. The Tony Hawk Foundation’s primary goals are to support and empower youth. They support recreational programs, particularly those related to skateboarding, in low-income communities.
White has been associated with the Make-A-Wish Foundation for some time, recently donating several snowboards from the 2014 Olympics to three children with the foundation. The young fans were also given a trip to Russia to see the Olympics in person.
Locks of Love
Shaun White’s long locks were part of him image, earning him the name “The Flying Tomato.” But the star gave up his long red locks in 2012 when he donated his hair to Locks of Love, a charity that provides hairpieces to children with hair loss due to a medical diagnosis.
You don’t have to be a gold medalist or popular athlete to help those who are less fortunate. Donate to one of the many causes on MicroGiving.com today, or start a fundraiser of your own. It’s quick and easy to get a campaign up and running within minutes.”
So, in conclusion, there are a lot of things to love about Shaun White, the legendary Flying Tomato. One thing is for sure — we will all be watching him defy gravity once again tonight as he stuns the crowd and continues to make Team USA proud.