While Chloe Kim broke out in a huge, fresh way on the women’s halfpipe, there was nothing new or fresh about what Shaun White did in the men’s halfpipe. It was just epic. He won gold in 2006 and 2010, then missed the podium all together in 2014. And now he was back for gold again. And went hard in training, that is, until the greatest rider of a generation suffered the worst crash of his life in October. Attempting to land a cab double cork 1440, he bruised his lungs and smashed his face, requiring 62 stitches and a five-day stay in the hospital.
But he was back again, looking for redemption. And he nearly had it on his first of three runs in the final when he threw down a 94.25. But Ayumu Hirano of Japan ripped the lead from White with a pair of 1440s that gave him a 95.25 on his second run.
Which meant that it all came down to White’s final run. The only way to win gold would be to land two 1440s of his own, including the cab double cork 1440 that ruined his face in New Zealand five months ago.
When he dropped in for his final run, he nailed the front side double cork 1440 and then chased that with the cab double cork 1440, a combination he’d never done before in competition. And then finished out a near flawless ride. And then came the long wait for the scores. And when they finally came: 97.75. Another gold. The third Olympic gold of his career. The 100th gold medal for America at the Winter Olympics. And redemption.
Well, sort of.
Because that’s the thing that’s tricky about sports. Yesterday was redemption for Shaun White as a snowboarder and it came in the most amazing way possible. He had to go where he’d never gone before, land a combination of tricks he’d never done before, and pull off the trick that put him into the hospital. He had to face down that fear to go legend once again. And he did.
Most amazing male snowboarder ever? Without a doubt. One of the most clutch performances I’ve ever seen? That too.
But redemption for Shaun White? Not so sure about that. Because this is the same Shaun White who was sued for sexual harassment by a former bandmate. The allegations in the lawsuit are truly disgusting. White paid an undisclosed amount to settle that lawsuit. After the competition, he was asked whether the lawsuit might tarnish his legacy and said, “I’m here to talk about the Olympics, not gossip and stuff. I don’t think so… I’m proud of who I am. My friends, you know, love me and vouch for me. I believe that stands for itself.”
In a later interview with NBC, he apologized for his words, saying “I’m truly sorry that I chose the word gossip. It was a poor choice of words to describe such a sensitive subject in the world today.”
So let’s pump the brakes on the redemption talk. As I’ve always said, but it keeps needing to be said time and time again, we don’t know these people. We don’t know them at all. There’s no doubt yesterday was an incredible moment for Shaun White the snowboarder. But let’s not draw any conclusions or make any declarations beyond that. A pair of 1440s may erase the pain of Sochi, but it doesn’t erase a sexual harassment lawsuit. Yesterday was about one thing: an amazing snowboarder did a truly amazing thing on a snowboard. And that’s it.