Shaun White ponders 2022, 2026 Olympics and life beyond snowboarding

Shaun White
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ASPEN, Colo. — With the mountains closed and the halfpipes shuttered during a pandemic that turned the world and its sports upside down, Shaun White put double-corks on hold and saved his most intense workouts for his mind.

He’d be the first to concede he needed that kind of break.

Now 34, and gearing up for a run at a fourth Olympic gold medal, White looked around after his latest victory, in 2018, and saw too much — on his calendar, coming out of his pocketbook, in the way he lived.

What has followed over the ensuing three years was a reboot in the way he thinks, does business and defines success in a snowboarding career that, by almost any measure, is the most successful in history.

“I know how it sounds,” White said in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press on the eve of the Winter X Games. “But more isn’t always better. I had six cars. I thought, ‘Dude, I only have one ass.’ … Our culture in the U.S. is, get the big house, get this, get that. But your world becomes cluttered that way.”

It wasn’t only the physical possessions that started to feel a bit overwhelming. It was the calendar, too. White struggled at the 2014 Olympics. During the run-up to those Games in Russia, he committed to trying to win two gold medals — in halfpipe and the newly introduced slopestyle competition. But he ended up with none.

He rebooted that time, too, and focused only on the halfpipe for 2018. When the chips were down in PyeongChang, White had just enough left in the tank at the end of that contest to throw the best, most-difficult run of his life and win his third gold.

In the aftermath, he saw his plate filling up again — namely in a quest to compete in skateboarding at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. It became too unwieldy and too unrealistic a project.

“I thought, ’I don’t know if I want to bet fully on this, and snowboard was sitting there, so I decided I had to make some tough decisions and I’m going to focus on snowboard,” White said.

Now, the clock is ticking. There are less than 13 months until the start of the Beijing Games.

White practiced at the X Games and was planning to compete, but hours before Sunday’s contest he detailed why he withdrew.

In the interview with AP, he said he came to Aspen not so much concerned with a result, but just for a chance to check out the competition and also “to show the general population who might think I’m not riding anymore, that I’m very, very much still into it.”

White came to the X Games without a snowboard deal for the first time since he was 7. It allowed him to plaster a picture of his niece, Charli, on a bottom panel that, for decades, featured the word “Burton.”

He’s now tinkering with his own snowboard designs. He admits to having no preconceived notions about where that will go. He considers himself less of a pitchman these days, more of a behind-the-scenes investor.

His guitar career has long been on hold, and though the series of Air & Style events he co-owns remains a working operation, much of that has also been put on the back burner because of the pandemic.

“I’m a snowboarder,” he says when asked what, exactly, he considers himself. “And I hate to say ‘entrepreneur,’ but it’s just investing in brands and keeping the rest of the slate clean right now. Instead of looking at the short term, it’s looking at the next 10 years and seeing things I might want to be part of in the long run.”

Though he’s seriously contemplating the 2026 Olympics in Italy — which would be a tidy bookend to an Olympic career that started 20 years earlier in the same country — White seems content with the reality that he’s closer to the end of his career than the beginning.

He’s hoping to approach 2022 differently than some Olympic years past — namely, by acknowledging it’s still very important to him, but viewing it more as a point on the timeline than the end of it.

“You put so much expectation on a delayed future reward, and you either get it and say ‘OK, what’s next?’ Or sometimes when you don’t get it, it’s almost easier because you go ‘Oh, well, we’re gonna do it next time,’ and it gives you new purpose,” he said. “But what happens when you get it, then you get it again?”

Those were some of the questions he came face-to-face with during a few days he spent last year with fellow sports stars, Tom Brady and Michael Phelps, headlining a panel at a self-help seminar.

That self-help experience sparked a follow-up visit, which, in many ways, led to a complete change in White’s mental approach.

“I went there solo,” he said. “I had the hood up. I thought, I’ll go incognito, I’ll go in, get a couple tidbits and leave. The first thing (they do) is say ‘Go hug 10 people.’ Right at that point, I’m not under the radar anymore. There were some awesome, simple lessons, and the big part was, you’ve got to work at this. Do the exercise.”

A bonus from the sessions: It’s where White met his girlfriend, Nina Dobrev of “Vampire Diaries” fame. They went public with their relationship last spring, and during the interview, White repeatedly came back to advice Dobrev has given him, and the calming influence she has lent to his often-hectic life.

He says the pandemic has allowed him to slow down. He’s spending a lot of time with Dobrev, “and hanging with Toby and J.J., and feeling good about things,” White said of his buddy, 20-year-old snowboarder Toby Miller, and 2002 Olympic bronze medalist J.J. Thomas, who coached White to gold in PyeongChang.

When not working on his mental/emotional outlook, White has used the extra time to sharpen skills in the kitchen. He spoke of a truffle risotto he’s trying to perfect and a parsley-lemon-Dijon garlic sauce for a salmon dish. That one, he says, might be nearing a “10.”

As White delves into the trials and travails of his new pastime, cooking, it seems as though he could just as easily be talking about about snowboarding — or business — or relationships — or life in general.

“I’m just nervous — I don’t want to hurt anybody,” he says. “You worry about something not being prepared properly. But once you clear that fear, it becomes a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable.”

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IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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