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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I’ve always lived my life by pushing the limits. Winning is great, but it’s the tough times that truly define you. I took a slam while training the other day, but don’t worry I’ll be back soon and better than ever!! Thanks @beatsbydre for bringing me into the family. #NormalisBoring #1of1 #RockNRoll