Shaun White continues to rub members of the snowboarding fraternity up the wrong way – and not just because of his trailblazing fashion sense (Google Shaun White leather jacket for more on this). As the very first Winter Olympics slopestyle qualifying event kicked off earlier today, the social media world was still spewing vitriolic wrath in the Flying Tomato’s direction after he pulled out of the comp – course safety issues apparently being the main concern.
Shaun White in 2010 pic: Mike Blake
According to colourful action sports and BBC commentator, Ed Leigh, White was literally hanging off the coattails of UK shredder Jamie Nicholls during warm up sessions. The two are reportedly good friends and Shaun’s shadowing of the Brit hopeful was an exercise in gauging the moves he’d need to throw down for a podium finish. White apparently saw the writing on the wall and realised his back of tricks just wasn’t there – mission aborted. Call this calculating, tactical, cowardly or just crap – the fact remains, White’s ultimate goal is to take home an unprecedented third Winter Olympics halfpipe gold medal, and nothing it seems will stop him.
So was Shaun White right to press eject?
Critics have been extremely vocal about White’s decision to quit at the eleventh hour – giving him a bashing for taking the place of someone more deserving. Reports from Sean’s camp said he fully intended to get stuck in but as the realisation hit that the course could be unsafe, the decision was made to knock it on the head.
From a pure sporting, in it to win it, point of view there is method in his thinking – injury prevention after all is a highly motivating factor. If your main medal hopes were dashed by snapping yourself, after competing in a weaker discipline, you’d be gutted. However, it’s this uber competitive streak that’s gained White his share of critics, citing this isn’t what snowboarding is about. His determination and total focus on the prize is at odds with the sport’s more romantic vision of camaraderie, friendship and fun. Blitzing the rest of the field and winning at all costs isn’t an attitude that fits into most everyday snowboarders’ lives – as such, a large number of riders just can’t associate with him.
For now, Shaun White will remain a real Marmite character and one who will continue to divide opinion. Should he take gold in the Sochi 2014 halfpipe discipline then all current negativity may evaporate – only time will tell? One thing’s for sure, White is certainly a colourful character and makes a good topic for après banter. Let’s see if he can deliver on event day and possibly ‘Chesney’ will be forgiven.