Shaun White
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Shaun White details crash that led to 62 stitches

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Shaun White crashed on his face training in New Zealand two weeks ago, requiring 62 stitches across his forehead, lips and tongue.

“I’ve had worse,” White laughed by phone Wednesday. “I would say it’s the most, like, visually alarming crash [in my career], you know what I mean?

“My worst crash is actually MTV’s 100 most brutal moments [video here via Diamond Dallas Page]. I was 11, and I crashed into another skateboarder, Bob Burnquist. I broke my hand. I spiral fractured my foot. I had a hairline fracture in my skull, and I woke up a day later. That was, by far, the worst crash.”

This most recent crash will cause White to miss about a month of snowboarding. The double Olympic halfpipe champion said he started working out again Wednesday and is planning to ride again late this month.

He expects to compete in the first of a series of Olympic team selection events the second weekend of December.

White remembers the crash in detail. He was performing a double flip 1440. He clipped the top of the halfpipe upon re-entry, bounced toward the bottom of the pipe, caught the toe edge of his board and faceplanted.

“And the wall itself is about 22 feet, so I flew all the way down,” he said. “I’ve fallen that way a million times. It’s kind of a perfect situation where I hit right on my lip and split my lip open. … I was bleeding a lot. I got up and rode down to the lift off area. I wasn’t knocked out. I ended up riding myself down to the paramedics office, the ski patrol. They’re like, look, the hospital is really far away, so I ended up taking a helicopter to the hospital and getting patched up.

“We have a really tough wax tech,” White went on, sharing more laughs. “He loved hockey, I think, more than anything. He was like, yeah, this happens. Split his face open, it’s good for the boy.”

White also suffered a pulmonary lung contusion. The blood buildup in his lungs delayed his flight home until his oxygen levels improved.

White was born with a heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot and had two major surgeries before his first birthday. It left him with a six-inch scar in the center of his rib cage.

The 31-year-old has also had a few concussions and a left ankle injury that bothered him from 2009 until he underwent surgery last fall.

This 62-stitcher is actually his second significant crash of this preseason.

White badly bruised his hip and his liver in a training fall in New Zealand about two months ago, which caused him to urinate blood. Doctors advised him then to “take a few weeks off.”

White is arguably the favorite for gold in PyeongChang in February despite finishing a disappointing fourth in Sochi, where he was bidding to three-peat as Olympic halfpipe champion.

White gradually improved last season after taking time off, changing coaches and dropping slopestyle (and his band work).

He was 11th at January’s Winter X Games — his worst finish there since 2000 — but then finished first, second and first in his last three events.

He peaked at the finale, the U.S. Open in Vail, Colo. White landed a cab double cork 1440 and a double McTwist 1260 in one run for the first time, according to The Associated Press.

White is older than any previous U.S. Olympic halfpipe snowboarder but has not ruled out continuing to Beijing 2022.

He’s still staying busy off the snow. White’s Air + Style just announced it will hold a big air event in Australia, about one mile from the Sydney Opera House, in August.

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Bernard Lagat reminded of Atlanta Games at U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials

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ATLANTA — As 45-year-old Bernard Lagat sat inside a hotel overlooking Centennial Olympic Park, he spoke one sentence that prefaced the start of his Olympic journey more than two decades ago.

“We are doing this in a special place,” he said of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, which finish at the park on Saturday (12 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Lagat is an underdog, but has a chance to make a sixth Olympic team by placing in the top three. He can break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history.

Lagat was reminded this week of the Atlanta Olympics that got away.

In 1996, the Kenyan-born runner was coming off his freshman year at Jomo Kenyatta University Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi. He studied mathematics and computer science.

Lagat debuted at the Kenyan Olympic Trials. He remembered finishing seventh in the 1500m, having exhausted himself by clocking a 3:37 semifinal.

“They had fancy shoes, nice clothing,” he said of the pros. “Me, I was like hand-me-down spikes.”

Lagat’s coach at the time, Nganga Ngata, arranged for him to transfer to Washington State later that summer. But first, Lagat watched on TV the Olympic 1500m final — famous for then-world-record holder Noureddine Morceli and current world-record holder Hicham El Guerrouj making contact at the bell; El Guerrouj fell, Morceli won.

Days later, Lagat headed to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. He was to fly to the United States for the first time, embarking on a journey that would lead to U.S. Olympic teams in 2008, 2012 and 2016 after he represented Kenya in 2000 and 2004.

Before a 21-year-old Lagat boarded his flight, he encountered a reception. The Kenyan Olympic team was arriving back from Atlanta after collecting eight medals, including in every men’s distance-running event.

“They had all these celebrations, traditional milk and the gourds,” Lagat said. “Oh, it was amazing. … That fire, seeing them coming home with medals, and I thought, I want to be like those guys.”

Lagat went on to earn eight combined Olympic and world championships medals between the 1500m and 5000m. Lagat qualified for one last Olympics on the track in 2016, going from sixth place at the bell to win the trials 5000m. He was fifth in Rio.

Then he turned to the marathon. Lagat has raced two of them. He clocked 2:17:20 in New York City in 2018, saying he was “running blind” with inexperience. He ran 2:12:10 at the 2019 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia, ranking him outside the 20 fastest Americans in this Olympic cycle.

Lagat went back to Kenya last month to train for the trials with the likes of world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge. Lagat soaked up so much that he likened it to a six-week school term.

At one point, Lagat was part of a 30km training run with Kipchoge. By the end he rounded a bend and saw the Olympic favorite just 60 seconds ahead.

“You think about Eliud being 60 seconds ahead of you in a 30K?” an incredulous Lagat said. “I thought, I’m done. Now I can buy my flight and go back to USA. I’m ready.”

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Chris Lillis, after missing Olympics, back atop aerials podium

Andrey Kulagin
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U.S. men’s aerials skiers had gone four years between World Cup victories. Now, they’ve won back-to-back events.

Chris Lillis prevailed in Kazakhstan on Friday, six days after Justin Schoenefeld ended the U.S.’ longest men’s victory drought since aerials became an Olympic medal sport in 1994.

Lillis, the 21-year-old brother of 2017 World champion Jon Lillis, landed a double full-full-full in the super final to score 121.27 points. Full results are here. He beat a field that included Schoenefeld (sixth place) and his older brother (14th) but lacked the world’s best from China and Russia.

“That was definitely one of the best jumps of my career,” Chris Lillis said. “Moving forward I’m feeling deadly.”

Chris has earned back-to-back World Cup podiums, his first top-three finishes since missing the PyeongChang Olympics with a torn ACL.

Also Friday, American Megan Nick finished second in the women’s event for her second runner-up this season. The last U.S. woman to win a World Cup was Kiley McKinnon on Jan. 6, 2018.

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