In Torino, California native Shaun White lived up to his advanced billing by claiming gold in men's halfpipe. As the defending Olympic champion, he's a marked man among his competitors, an iconic figure in the action sports world and has a hard time eating a meal nowadays without getting recognized.
Can you recall the moment in Torino when you realized that you had won gold?
Well, for, for me, I had put down that first finals run, and I remember looking at the score. It was like 46 [46.8]. And I was like, ahh. I couldn't even describe what the feeling was at that point. And I didn't want to let the kind of game face go at that exact moment because I knew, who knows what is going to happen. So I am standing up there. I'm so fired up for this whole amount of time, and there is only like three more guys to go, and I am still sitting there fired up, because I had another run that was maybe a little bit better that I could do. And, and the last guy goes through, and, and I think he even had a fall. And I'm getting tackled by the coaches. And it was just amazing, it was unreal.
Knowing you had already won gold, what were you thinking heading into that last run?
The thing that I kept thinking in my mind was like, just don't fall on this last run down. Because I didn't want to be the guy that won and then like they are replaying it later on the news. And so I definitely, took my time to go down and celebrated with big airs. I sprayed the crowd. I mean, I'll honestly admit at that point forward it was just, it was just like a daze, like a dream. The only time I really remembered what was actually going on - because I was so in awe of everything - was I woke up the next morning and the medal was on my dresser, and it was just, ahhh.
Has it been hard to adjust to becoming more and more of a celebrity?
Yes, it has been strange. I mean, there is a couple of things that you have got to deal with once you get to a certain level of success, I guess. I am a pretty recognizable, like, I walk through the airport or something, you are going to spot me right away. You are at dinner with the family and you are getting approached by people. And, I mean, my family loves it. They are like "Oh, those kids want your autograph!" I am like, "I know, I have seen them. They will come up in a minute, just give it time [laughs]." But [my family is] just so happy for me. They are so excited and all of this has worked out in such an amazing way. We all started snowboarding in the beginning as a family just to be closer together, go on trips. It was our soccer, but instead of Dad yelling at me from the sideline he is there riding with me and hitting the jumps even before I am hitting them. But that was years ago. And it is just definitely amazing to see where it started and now where we are at. It is just wild. And I appreciate it more, I think, because of that.
Now that you're an Olympic champion, what's driving you?
Ah, man. How much time do we have? Because I could go on forever. What drives me now is the fact that I feel like I still have so many tricks that I want to learn and so many things that I can still do. And so many cool things outside of sports that I have been doing. You know, I went to Africa, and just kind of like the experience of going and meeting kids. And there is a thing we are doing at Target House in Memphis. It's next to the St. Jude Hospital. It's a long-term care facility.
What's it like being involved with the Target House?
It is so cool because you go down there and you meet these kids that are just dealing with these incredible things that they should not be dealing with, and to see their spirits so high, and they are so excited, so amped to meet you and you put on a skate demo and come into the house and do all these things, it has been wild. I mean, I get letters in the mail because I had a heart defect when I was one, I had surgeries and stuff. And so you get these letters in the mail that just, they are crazy, they are just like, yes, well our son is dealing with the same thing and we saw you on TV and I mean it is such a cool thing to inspire and kind of give hope. You know what I mean? It is pretty cool to have something bigger going on.
You also mentioned going to Africa. Can you talk a little bit about that trip?
That was one of those things where I was doing some commercials and some spots on television about African relief, and I just don't believe in kind of saying and supporting something that I didn't really know much about, and it felt awkward to me. So I am like, you know what, I am going to do this commercial, I am going to do these things and say these things, and then I am actually going to go. And I went down there and it was just wild. We went to Rwanda and a couple other zones. And basically just kind of looked around, went to memorials, went to different places. It was just a wild experience to see people very happy, living without iPods and all these things that we put on ourselves that we don't really need. And going down there [made me feel] humbled, and it was just a wild experience.
As the pilot for the USA-1 bobsled, I broke a 62-year gold medal drought when my sled, the 'Night Train" won the Olympic title at the 2010 Vancouver Games. A degenerative eye condition nearly caused me to quit my sport in 2008, but corrective surgery restored my vision to 20-20.