Shaun White: Dad tears really get you

He flies and spins high above the halfpipe, pulling tricks such as the Double McTwist 1260, but for snowboarder Shaun White the defining memory of his career is still the sight of his dad crying.

Once dubbed the “Flying Tomato” because of his flowing red hair, White won Olympic gold medals for his aerial antics in Turin and Vancouver.

Despite becoming an icon of his sport, White failed to add to his haul in Sochi, but the pain of defeat is spurring him on for redemption in South Korea in 2018.

Nothing, though, will surpass winning that first gold in front of his family in Italy in 2006.

“It’s the obvious one that stands out the most — the very first one, nothing really compares to that,” the 29-year-old American recently told CNN.

“I remember getting to the bottom of the halfpipe and I’d just won the Olympics. You see your family, everyone is crying and you can handle that — your mum, brother, sister. Everyone is so overwhelmed with joy.

“But when your dad is crying? There’s something about the dad tears that really get you. He’s the tough figure in your life and he’s just bawling and it cuts to the core of you.”

White went to the Vancouver Games with a new trick up his sleeve, the Double McTwist — a forward-flipping manoeuvre performed on the backside and rotating through 1260 degrees — which he renamed the Tomahawk. He had already secured gold with an unassailable lead after the first run but treated fans to the Tomahawk with his second.

White, who has also won 13 gold medals in the X Games, the extreme sports Olympics, went to Russia as hot favorite for a third straight gold medal in 2014.

However, he crashed on his first run at Rosa Khutor and was unable to pull something big enough out of the bag in the second and finished fourth to the shock of the watching world.

Looking back, White believes the experience was priceless.

“Something amazing happened to me at Sochi,” he said. “It was the first time I’d ever not won an Olympics I’d entered. It was heavy and at the time it was rough.

“I wanted to win, I went there to win and I didn’t. It took me some time to see the lessons learned from that.

“But I feel so thankful, to be honest, for having that experience. It made me humble in so many different ways.”

White’s world is a whirl of celebrity, snowboarding and organizing events such as Air + Style, a three-event tour taking in Beijing, Innsbruck and Los Angeles and featuring a two-day festival combining a snowboard big air competition with music, art and fashion.

But the lure of Olympic gold is still strong and the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang beckon.

“I’d love to compete,” he says. “Obviously, I have to qualify and do a bunch of different things to get there, but that’s the plan.”

It’s tough to take, but White wants to see those dad tears once again.

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