Shaun White will return once again to Aspen.
White will keep his streak of competing at the Winter X Games in Aspen intact after alluding last week that he may miss the event for the first time in his career.
White’s Tuesday morning announcement on ESPN, the event’s sponsor, said that he would compete at the X Games this week.
The eight-time superpipe and five-time slopestyle gold medalist has never missed an X Games event in Aspen, but that run appeared in danger last week when White told ESPN he would be skipping the X Games and that the next time he would compete would be at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“So far, the plan is still not to attend X,” White said at Mammoth Mountain, Calif., “especially considering how much work this has been to qualify for the Olympics. It’s that time of what do I really want to work on before the Olympics, and you’ve only got one week to really crank it out.”
However, on Tuesday he told event organizers he will indeed compete in Aspen (coverage begins at 7 p.m. MST Thursday on ESPN). The slopestyle final is at noon on Saturday (ESPN), and the superpipe final is at 7 p.m. Sunday (ESPN).
Jeff Hanle, Director of Public Relations for Aspen Skiing Co., said it’s great that White will be participating this week.
“Shaun White is a child of the X Games,” Hanle said. “We do like having the best of the best represented, but let’s keep in mind that the X Games is about hundreds of athletes, not just one person. That said, I’m sure the fans will be happy to see White competing.”
White made his X Games debut in Aspen in 2000 at age 13 — the youngest Winter X competitor ever.
He became the youngest medalist ever at X Games Aspen at the age of 15.
“Even if Shaun (White) wasn’t competing, just having him here in Aspen for the event makes a huge difference,” said Aspen resident Travis McLain, a former X Games UltraCross gold medalist and currently a snowboard coach for the U.S. Paralympics team. “He’s one of the most recognized athletes in the world. He’s really been beating himself up the past few weeks. I’m curious to see how he rides here. I wouldn’t be shocked to see some of the Olympic athletes come out a little conservative at first, but the younger competitors will be pushing it, no matter what.”
White clinched his Olympic spot in slopestyle Thursday at the Olympic qualifier at Mammoth Mountain with a dramatic comeback victory in the second of two events.
On the first run, he had a vicious face-plant and was treated on course by medical personnel.
But White rallied later in the afternoon to win his Olympic berth.
White will be joined on the U.S. Olympic team by Sage Kotsenburg and Chas Guldemond, who were named to the team Sunday, as well as Jamie Anderson and Ty Walker on the women’s side.
Slopestyle is making its Olympic debut in Sochi.
White, the two-time defending Olympic halfpipe champion, locked up a spot on the U.S. Olympic halfpipe team as well, winning the final of five qualifiers Sunday.
At a ceremony following the competition, White, Dan Davis, 2010 Olympian Greg Bretz and U.S. Snowboarding rookie Taylor Gold were named to the U.S. Olympic halfpipe team.
White took a hard slam in his first run of the first of two slopestyle qualifiers Thursday and opted to skip the first halfpipe competition Friday. He said his ankle, which bothered him earlier in the season, is feeling great.
“That’s old news,” he told ESPN. “It’s the shoulder now.”
In the past couple of months, White has alluded to new tricks he has yet to debut in both his slopestyle and halfpipe runs. He showed his hand with a frontside double cork 1440 in a video released by GoPro in December but has yet to throw it in a contest run. He added a cab double 1440 (aka the switch frontside double 14) to the middle of his winning halfpipe run at Mammoth, the same trick Iouri Podladtchikov debuted at X Games Tignes in March and dubbed the “YOLO flip.”
“That’s the first time I’ve done (the cab double 1440) in a contest, let alone doing a double cork into it,” White said. “I’ve been waiting to break it out.”
White will compete in superpipe and slopestyle at X Games Aspen.
“His presence will help promote the event,” McLain said. “Even if he’s just giving high-fives.”