At the recent Halfpipe World Cup event in Aspen Snowmass, Shaun White booked his spot at PyeongChang 2018 by winning the event. And not only that, he did it with a run that scored the fabled ‘perfect score’ of 100 points…
Shaun White. Remember him? That dude in a band you probably haven’t listened to, who owns a few snowboard contest/lifestyle events… oh, and who has a couple of Olympic halfpipe gold medals tucked away in the closet. Before the Olympics in Sochi the pre-game chat was if Shaun would be able to make it three Letterman appearances in a row (he was certainly taking it seriously – who could forget the cringe ‘Sochi. Triple. Sochi.’ moment in his Russia Calling documentary), and when he also qualified for the Slopestyle side of things too the questions multiplied into if he’d be able to rub shoulders with the more established slope rippers, and if he had a chance of double-medalling.
But then, as everyone knows, after voicing criticisms of the Sochi course he pulled out entirely of the Slopestyle at short notice, and failed to make the podium in the pipe. For a dude who thrives on competition more than pretty much any other rider in the game it proved a bitter pill to swallow, and one that triggered a spot of navel gazing.
Though we’d read it as ‘just gonna chill a bit’ (rather than “I QUIT!” as some of the more hysterical members of the media did), Shaun was certainly absent from the contest grind for a couple of seasons. However, in late 2015 he started dropping back in and showed that he’d lost none of his mojo in the stunt ditch – he won the 2015 Dew Tour stop in Breck before doing the same later that season by taking 2016’s US Open pipe crown. He took the top spot there last year, too, with that trademarked blend of monster backside airs and head-scratching double cork combos wrapped up in tight black leather.
“The height, technicality and combinations Shaun threw together for his recent run in Aspen was mind-boggling”
But would he make it to another Olympics? Would he even want to? Course he would, and Shaun sealed his spot with a performance the other day that served as a clear statement of intent to wrestle the Gold back. The past season we had been quietly been backing Scotty James or Ayumu Hirano to muscle in on the top spot, but now we’re not so sure. The height, technicality and combinations Shaun threw together for his recent run in Aspen was mind-boggling, and despite there being other riders we’d prefer to watch from a style perspective, in the hard currency of points that judges can throw out it’s easy to imagine him having a strong say in where the PyeongChang 2018 Superpipe Gold will end up.
Was it a 100-point ‘perfect’ run though? It certainly ticked a lot of boxes but we’d say no: a couple of his tricks could have been pulled better (not even mentioning the bootgrabbing) but, hey, we’re not FIS judges – haven’t quite made it through the 64 pages of FIS’s judging handbook, alas – and also in our imperfect world, maybe there’s something to be said for throwing ‘perfection’ around willy nilly like our chums in surfing do… Think of the mainstream media coverage! Perfection sells!
Oh, and to answer the question in the title of this post: Yes. On this evidence, yes he could.