To a jet-lagged Shaun White, growing up means a focus on massages, fewer training hours and creaky ankles.
At 27, he realizes he needs to take care of his body. Most of the time.
“I read an interview that Andre Agassi never stretches before his events, so I just don’t stretch,” he said Wednesday in a break from training in Keystone, Colo., two days after flying in from Austria. “For kids, it’s probably the worst advice.”
The repeated talk of White’s attempt to compete in two Olympic snowboarding events for the first time masks the fact that he’s also trying to become the first U.S. men’s halfpipe snowboarder to compete in three Olympics.
Halfpipe’s Olympic history spans four Games, but White is still approaching unchartered territory in a sport he’s defined for about a decade.
“I used to go up and ride all day long,” he said. “I just don’t do it anymore. I really show up, I do a couple runs and that’s the best I’m going to be all day, and I slowly get worse.
“I ride my heart out for about two hours, and then I leave. That’s probably why you see me do so many other things off the hill because I realize that once those two hours are up, I’ve got to fill my time with something else.”
That includes his band, Bad Things. In August, the guitarist said he would probably do shows between when their debut album came out Oct. 29 and the Olympics.
The release date has been pushed back indefinitely. White said no shows are planned before the Olympics.
“It’s definitely been a strain on the group, trying to jump between the two,” White said. “Obviously, training for me takes priority, especially right now with the countdown [to Sochi] and everything. But it’s such a fun way to take my mind off things and refresh. If you stick in the mountains, stick to the same thing too much, you lose that motivation. The music and playing in the band has definitely given me that distraction to where I come back [to snowboarding], and I’m excited.”
On the mountains, White said he began to feel like a veteran when announcers called him the oldest competitor at events.
There are the obvious negatives, but there are also positives.
“With age, I’ve been able to learn a lot more about myself,” he said. “What my body needs to recover, when to push forward and not.”
And experience. White said his biggest rivals are Swiss Iouri Podladtchikov (25) in halfpipe and Canadians Mark McMorris (19) and Sebastian Toutant (21) in slopestyle. Only Podladtchikov, I-Pod, has a dossier that can rival White’s.
“That’s the only thing that I’m carrying with me that I feel like a lot of the other guys might not have,” he said. “I know somewhat of a drill of what goes on, the nerves and the excitement and all that.”
The normal routine has shifted. White said he used to ride, get a massage, take one day off and be “more than 100 percent” to pick it up the following day.
“For some reason, the taxing toll it takes to go ride all day long, and put in that really long day and get a massage, it leaves me really worked for the next day and the day after,” he said.
Not only has he cut the number of hours training, but he’s also sticking to the same massage therapists rather than taking recommendations.
“If people have been working on you for years, they know that this area of your body gets really fatigued or really overworked and they can help you adjust to get back to normal,” he said.
White still must qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team, beginning with the Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships in Breckenridge, Colo., from Dec. 12-15. There, the world will see what he’s been working on at a private halfpipe and slopestyle course in Australia.
His season was supposed to start in August in New Zealand, but he suffered a right ankle injury in a slopestyle training crash, 19 months after spraining his right ankle at the Winter X Games.
He talked about the injuries not like a reckless, long-haired Generation X boarder but an aging, high-socked YMCA pickup basketball player.
“Ankles, man, you need ’em,” White said. “They’re creaky.”