PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Shaun White’s latest masterful performance in the halfpipe was barely five hours old. He hadn’t yet received his Olympic gold medal. But the 31-year-old snowboarder already knew what the next chapter of his unparalleled athletic career will look like: yet another Olympics.
But if all goes as planned, he will be packing a different wardrobe next time because White will leave PyeongChang and began preparations to compete in the next Summer Olympics, hosted by Tokyo in 2020.
The International Olympic Committee voted in 2016 to add skateboarding to the summer program, something White had dreamed about for years.
“It would mean the world to me to compete in skating,” he said Wednesday afternoon in PyeongChang. “It’d be great. “
While snowboarding has brought White fame and fortune, it was actually skateboarding that launched his athletic career and first brought him any sort of attention. He was buddies with Tony Hawk before his 10th birthday, was a professional skateboarder at 17 — before he was an Olympic snowboarder — and even launched a skateboarding video game in 2010. He was the first athlete to compete in — and win — both the Summer and Winter X Games, and now he wants to follow his third snowboarding Olympic gold with the first skateboarding Olympic gold.
“Man, it’s wild. I assumed at some point in my lifetime, skateboarding would get into the Olympics,” he said, “but I’m just happy that it’s come at a time when I feel physically and mentally capable of actually competing and pursuing that goal and dream.”
He won’t be the first to compete in both seasons. More than 130 athletes, in fact, have participated in the Winter and Summer Games — including 10 Americans — but only five have won medals in both. Eddie Eagan of the United States was the only one to win gold in both. He competed in boxing in 1920 and 1924 and bobsled in 1932.
More recently, hurdler Lolo Jones represented the United States at the Summer Games in 2008 and 2012 before switching to bobsled in 2014. And sprinter Lauryn Williams competed in three Summer Olympics before jumping in the bobsled in 2014.
White realizes that his post-PyeongChang training will be tricky. Even though snowboarding tends to be a young man’s sport, he is not close to retiring. And he knows that he can’t afford to abandon his training while he focuses on skateboarding.
“I’ll have to make a hard decision at that point,” he said. “To be at the top of the game of snowboarding and then decide all of a sudden to let my competitors have two years of practice on me while I pursue skateboarding . . . it’s a big decision. It’s a lot to sacrifice to go for something like that, so I’m going to make that choice in time.”
And while his sights are firmly set on the Tokyo Summer Games and he will surely devote much of the next couple of years to preparations, he also knows what lies beyond 2020: a return to the Winter Games, set for Beijing in 2022 — when White will be 35 years old, still spinning and flipping in the pipe.
He says he is having too much fun to walk away, a far cry from how he felt four years ago. After winning gold at the 2006 and 2010 Olympics, White stumbled and finished in fourth at the Sochi Games, which served as daily motivation these past four years.
“I’ve kind of, like, found the love of the sport again,” he said, “through my friends and family and the people who support me. And I was able to stand up there and deliver the performance I gave.”
In Wednesday’s final run, White posted a score of 97.75, a performance significantly more difficult and measurably more dazzling than anything he’d done before on an Olympic stage. Even though his thirst for medals isn’t yet quenched, considering what it took to get to this point, he was at least temporarily satiated.
“At the bottom, all the emotions hit me — I’d won. Everything we’d been through, every dream I’d had, trying to sleep last night — and I’m living that dream right now,” he said. “It’s amazing.”