Shaun White
Shaun White at the Winter X Games. (Photo by Doug Pensinger, Getty Images)

by Allen Ortiz 

At the close of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, many questions were left unanswered, especially for the United States athletes who didn’t medal. Most would be thinking of the USA men’s hockey team whose collapse left a lasting wound in the hearts of Americans. But what about Shaun White, or “The Flying Tomato” as many call him? He has not only dominated in the snowboard halfpipe in the past two Winter Olympics, but has also won gold in numerous X Games throughout his career.

White entered the Sochi Winter Games with gold on his mind in both the newly added slopestyle snowboarding event and the halfpipe event, which has been his specialty for the past decade. This year, the hype didn’t follow Shaun as it did in the Vancouver games, where he won gold in halfpipe with his first run. He even used his second run as a victory lap, ending it with a trick White invented himself—the “Tomahawk”—which is a Double Mctwist 1260. He did nearly the same in the 2006 Torino Games, winning gold with his first run and using the second as a victory lap minus the anticipated new trick.

White was chasing history this year as he tried to become the first American to win gold in the same event for three consecutive Winter Games. Speed skater Shani Davis tried to do the same in the 1,000, but ultimately failed, receiving no medals.

White did not seem himself from the beginning, falling twice on his first run. His second run was a bit of an improvement, but it was filled with bobbles and near falls, scoring him a 90.25, which was still good enough for fourth place. He also entered these Games with much criticism after dropping out of the slopestyle event at the last minute, not leaving enough time for the U.S. to replace him. This led many of his rivals to believe he was scared to lose. The gold medal eventually went to the U.S. after snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg made his breakout appearance and shocked everyone.

Although White stated that he backed out of the event due to the design of the slopestyle course, he also said that it is was a “better bet” to focus on his signature event, the halfpipe. But by the end of the competition, White was left looking up to Louri Podladtchikov, the Swiss rider who won halfpipe gold.

Whether this is the end for White in the Olympics is still unknown. He’ll have to wait until 2018 in Pyeongchang to decide if he wants to go after Olympic gold again. He’ll be 31 years old then, but if there is anyone who can make a dramatic comeback to put himself back on top of the snowboarding world, it’s certainly “The Flying Tomato.”