Shaun White came into the X Games sporting a new mustache and goatee, enhancing his rock star persona, and left with a shiny gold medal to hang around his flowing red locks and neck.
Having unleashed a dizzying array of acrobatics on his final run during Saturday night’s Skateboard Vert final, while trailing longtime rival Pierre Luc-Gagnon, White drew a score of 93.00 to pull ahead. PLG fell after dropping into the ramp as time on the jam session expired, and White erupted in jubilation.
“I just wanted to put it down for all my fans who came out,” White, 24, told ESPN’s Keir Dillon immediately after his remarkable triumph. “I’ve been working so hard to get this season going … I was working my way through my tricks and after that [720-degree spin] … I had so much energy I was like, ‘I’m making this happen; I don’t care.’ “
PLG had earned a seemingly unbeatable score of 91.66, largely on the merit of technically-difficulty heel flips and above-the-ramp spins, which included 540 variations and a 720. Bucky Lasek (87.66) was third.
White, whose final run was capped by a remarkable heel-flip body-varial front-side 540, not only erased PLG’s hopes of a four-peat, but earned his first victory in the event since 2007, thus reclaiming the medal from his friend and nemesis.
It was a momentous triumph because it gives White, whose ego demands success, a second gold medal in the summer X Games, proving the first was no fluke and that the two-sport athlete can out-perform the world’s best on skateboarding’s biggest stage.
“I’m beside myself,” he said.
(White has two Olympic gold medals and 11 Winter X Games gold medals as a snowboarder.)
To be sure, it seems everything is going White’s way these days. He just had a cameo in the Justin Timberlake movie “Friends With Benefits,” and has all sorts of sponsorship deals in the works, including new signature clothing and apparel lines with Target, his primary sponsor.
But he put an incredible amount of work into his gold-medal performance. He had been practicing tirelessly on the vert ramp at Tony Hawk’s house, and recently bought a ramp similar to the type used last summer at the X Games, and set the apparatus up at his home in Carlsbad, Calif.
“The quality of portable ramps has gotten so much better and I’m psyched to have one,” he said earlier this week, in an ESPN story. “I’m pretty much the coolest kid on the street. The kids really look up to me now.”
— Photos of Shaun White in action Saturday night are courtesy of Nate Hoppes