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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2023 French Open women’s singles draw, bracket

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At the French Open, Iga Swiatek of Poland eyes a third title at Roland Garros and a fourth Grand Slam singles crown overall.

Main draw play began Sunday, live on Peacock.

Swiatek, the No. 1 seed from Poland, can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

Turning 22 during the tournament, she can become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Men’s Draw

But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her most recent match with a right thigh injury last week and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the No. 4 seed and Wimbledon champion, are the top challengers in Paris.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula and No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, are the best hopes to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Women’s Singles Draw

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2023 French Open men’s singles draw, bracket

French Open Men's Draw
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

Main draw play began Sunday, live on Peacock.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, who lost in the French Open first round in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, is improved on clay. He won the Italian Open, the last top-level clay event before the French Open, and is the No. 2 seed ahead of Djokovic.

No. 9 Taylor Fritz, No. 12 Frances Tiafoe and No. 16 Tommy Paul are the highest-seeded Americans, all looking to become the first U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003. Since then, five different American men combined to make the fourth round on eight occasions.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

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