Watch Shaun White, at age 15, just miss 2002 Olympic team

0 Comments

In 2002, a 15-year-old Shaun White was beaten out for the last halfpipe spot on the U.S. Olympic team by J.J. Thomas.

Now, White is going for his fourth Olympics with Thomas as his new coach. The path to PyeongChang continues at the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, Calif., this week on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

“It’s funny how life goes around,” White joked.

In 2002, Thomas edged White in the fifth and final Salt Lake City Olympic qualifying contest to keep White from becoming the youngest American to compete in a Winter Olympics since 1992 (and younger than any American to compete in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 Olympics, too).

Thomas went on to earn bronze in Salt Lake City, part of the second-ever U.S. sweep of a Winter Olympic event behind gold medalist Ross Powers and silver medalist Danny Kass.

One week after losing to Thomas in the Olympic qualifier, White earned his first Winter X Games medal, a halfpipe silver behind Thomas.

“He’s been close to unbeatable ever since,” Thomas said. “We all kind of knew it, once he gets his man strength. We knew [2002] was the last chance to keep him under control.”

White would win Olympic gold in 2006 and 2010 with coach Bud Keene at his side at the top of the halfpipe each time. White and Keene separated after White finished a disappointing fourth in Sochi.

The retired Thomas started coaching 2010 Olympian Louie Vito. White joined Vito for an October 2015 training trip in New Zealand, where Thomas critiqued both riders.

“I started giving him my two cents, and we took it from there,” Thomas said.

It wasn’t until this season that Thomas became White’s official coach.

“Our relationship is how I would describe my early days of snowboarding with my brother being my team manager or whatever, my friend on the mountain,” White said. “It’s a very fun and low-key sort of thing. He’s not really the drill-sergeant type of coach.”

MORE: Shaun White impressed by Chloe Kim