Snowboarders from around the globe are in PyeongChang to compete in the 2018 Winter Games, and thanks to his victory in a last-minute qualifying round, Shaun White is competing in the Olympics for the fourth time in his professional career. He had taken two serious spills while training months earlier that threatened to keep him home during the 2018 games.
White has snowboarded in every Winter Olympics since 2006, and he has two gold medals under his belt. However, he suffered a string of injuries in late 2017 that immediately threatened his participation in the 2018 games. It's also worth noting that in 2016, a former bandmate sued White for sexual harassment. In a statement, White said that it was a "bogus lawsuit." He settled the case for an undisclosed amount the next year, but it nevertheless affected White's otherwise-positive reputation in pop culture.
In September, White was training for a halfpipe event in the New Zealand Winter Games when he under-rotated during a double flip, sending him to the hospital. Although he didn't break any bones, the injury forced him — for the second time since 2014 — to withdraw from the New Zealand competition. Nevertheless, he struck a positive attitude about the accident and pledged to resume snowboarding as soon as possible.
"Life’s going to knock you down," White wrote on social media after the September crash. "Get up, learn from your mistakes, and you’ll be better for it! See you back on the mountain soon!”
But White suffered another accident in New Zealand in October while training for the Olympics, crashing while attempting a double-flip 1440. His face was severely damaged and he suffered a pulmonary lung contusion. White had to receive 62 stitches and take a month off as a result of that crash, and he later told NBC Sports that it was the most "visually alarming crash" he's ever had. Thankfully, his face soon healed, and he told the Post that the accident was "frustrating more than anything."
“This was more of a superficial injury, in a sense,” White told the Post. “Visually jarring. But physically, I can still ride and do my thing.”
However, the crash meant that White had to miss a whole month of training, and that took its toll: When he competed in the first qualifer for the Olympics in December, he placed third. In the next qualifier, he placed 14th, meaning he couldn't compete in the qualifier's final round.
But in January, White scored a perfect 100 in the halfpipe at the U.S. Grand Prix in Colorado, qualifying him to compete in the Olympics for the fourth time in his career.
White has won two gold medals in men's half-pipe events at the Olympics: One in Turin in 2006 and one four years later in Vancouver. At the 2014 games in Sochi, however, he failed to win any medals at all after falling twice during the half-pipe competition. It was a surprisingly disappointing performance, and it stuck with White a year later.
“People ask, 'When are you going to get over it?,'" White told NBC in 2015. "You don’t, you don’t really ever get over it. It’s kind of like you have a scar from falling off a bike, it’s just with you forever. But you learn from it. So it’s a part of me now, which is great. As hard as it was, I’m thankful that it happened because it taught me a lot."
When asked what specifically he learned from the incident, White replied that "the worst thing I could have imagined happened, and I was still there." He told NBC, "I was still alive and well and had a great family and a dog. My dog still liked me!"
In addition to being a world-class snowboarder (and dog lover), White is the creator of the Air + Style festival, a two-day event that's half music festival, half snowboarding competition. This year's festival will be held just one week after the Olympics end, and will feature performances by Gucci Mane, Phantogram, GRiZ, Cashmere Cat and others.