PyeongChang 2018

Everything You Need to Know About Snowboarder Shaun White

Snowboarder Shaun White, A.K.A. "The Flying Tomato," is an American action sports hero. He's got a flowing mane of red hair and whether he's on a snowboard or skateboard, his God-like ability to spin and twist in the air has earned him a whole lot of silverware and butt-loads of money. 

White returns to action at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, after a horrific crash saw him require 62 stitches and a five-day stint in the intensive care unit last October. Despite the setback, White is still on the hunt for his third Olympic gold medal in what's likely to be his last appearance at the prestigious tournament. 

It's only a matter of days before White flies onto your TV screen and perhaps another Olympic podium. In the meantime, here's what you should know about the athlete. 

He's been a pro snowboarder since he was 13

Despite being born with a serious heart condition that forced him to endure two operations at a young age, White picked up skateboarding when he was only 5-years-old. He quickly excelled, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Jesse, but it was ultimately snowboarding that unleashed his competitive drive. 

Although his family lived in San Diego, California, driving to the mountains became habitual, and White's prowess earned him a professional ranking at the age of 13.

"I wanted to win because I knew I could, even though I was very small for my age. I was winning my age group in junior competitions but I wasn’t progressing my riding, so at 13 years old I turned pro," he told The Telegraph in 2016.  

The transition to professional contests was hard at first, but the heightened difficulty gradually laid the blueprint for White's future success. 

He's the most decorated X-Games gold medalist in history

White entered his first X-Games when he was 18, and he's since been on a never-ending tear, racking up more gold medals than any other athlete in the competition's history. The fact the he's competed in two sports -- skateboarding and snowboarding -- has only helped him stockpile hardware. In total, he has 13 gold medals across halfpipe, superpipe, and slopestyle categories, in addition to two more golds for skateboarding vert in the Summer X Games. Add that to the eight silver and bronzes he's amassed over the years, and you get a mantle piece teeming with medallions and a very sore neck. 

He's also got 10 ESPYs, for what it's worth. 

Getty Images

His meteoric rise hasn't come without controversy 

White settled a lawsuit with former bandmate Lena Zawaideh last year, after the drummer alleged White had sexually harassed her and reneged on her payment while they played in the rock group Bad Things. White ardently denied the allegations, and while a court date was set for August of last year, the athlete reached an undisclosed financial settlement with Zawaideh and the trial was ultimately dismissed. 

He made snowboarding mainstream 

White is largely credited with ushering snowboarding into the mainstream limelight. For a long time, the sport was the unruly step-sister of skiing, but White's masterclass at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, is hailed as a turning point for the sport in terms of commercial viability. The sport's ballooned in size and scope since then, and White's largely been credited as the poster-child for its explosion.

He's got quite the brand

White's success has seen him amass a global brand and reputation: His video game Shaun White Snowboarding came out in 2008, and after clinching his first Olympic gold, he became a fixture on the late night talk show circuit. He's got a slew of lucrative endorsements, and doesn't refrain from the humblebrag by calling himself an "icon" on his personal website

His multiple investments in the ski resort industry, as well as his stake in the roving Air and Style snowboard competition, make him like the Bono of snowboarding, or something. (His rockstar outfits don't hurt either).

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Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Esquire. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster