Shaun White is not well-liked among fellow snowboarders. The reasons White’s competitors don’t like him are the same reasons White has dominated the sport for years and why his failure in Sochi is unlikely to be the end of his career.
American Danny Davis, who finished tenth in the halfpipe competition, was a guest on “The Dan Patrick Show” and was asked why snowboarders hate White.
Davis said it may be jealousy for some riders. But more importantly, he pointed out what has long been known about White, that he is just not part of the snowboarding social network.
“Like a lot of my friends, when we learn new tricks, we learn with a big group of us,” said Davis. “Shaun kind of does everything on his own…Unfortunately we don’t get to hang with him much.”
This same sentiment was explained by Elizabeth Weil of the New York Times, noting that other snowboarders resent White for “snubbing them, not even pretending they were all friends, an attitude that is central to snowboarding’s self-concept.”
But White’s exclusion is less about feeling superior and more about just being insanely competitive.
Skate boarding legend Tony Hawk, who mentored White in that sport, explained to Elizabeth Weil of the New York Times, that White has always been distant and not well-liked by fellow competitors.
“He wasn’t completely living in the skateboard world, but he was really good at it…And he rubbed people the wrong way.” White didn’t make the simple social gestures that signal respect. “He would learn these tricks — he didn’t know their names, but he could do them better than anyone.”
The story is reminiscent of Tiger Woods, another athlete who started dominating his sport at a young age and who has long been criticised by fellow golfers for not embracing the gentlemanly nature of the sport.
Like White, Woods competes to win and showed little desire to make friends with his competitors when he was kicking their butts on a regular basis.
Iouri Podladtchikov, the Swiss snowboarder better known as I-Pod and as the one who dethroned White in the Olympic halfpipe, told Rachel Axon of USAToday.com that people who criticise White or talk behind his back are “morons.”
I-Pod recognises why White is so important to the sport.
Instead of sharing trade secrets and helping competitors, White is doing things nobody else is doing and he is pushing the sport forward. As a result, I-Pod uses White as motivation to improve and says hating on him is “the stupidest thing.”
Podladtchikov also recognises that White is far from done dominating tin snowboarding, noting that the win in Sochi was somewhat tainted by White falling in the finals. “I didn’t want to beat him falling,” Podladtchikov told USA Today. “I wanted to do greater things.”
White actually had the best score of the competition, when he posted a 95.75 in the qualification round, one point better than I-Pod’s gold medal-winning score.
In the meantime, White said after his Sochi performance that he needs “a little break from snowboarding for a while” and will go on tour with his band.
When he returns to the sport, he may not return to open arms, and that is probably OK in Shaun White’s world.
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