Skateboard Olympic qualifiers start soon and Shaun White hopes to compete
VAIL — When USA Skateboarding launched a national skateboarding team in March, the announcement came with some confusion in the industry. A major point of clarification was needed — the national skateboarding team was not the U.S. Olympic skateboarding team.
Fans of competitive snowboarding spotted the misinformation right away, as they well knew that the Olympic team selection would be based on results in a series of qualifiers, much like snowboarding.
Also, there was no mention of Shaun White.
White has made it clear that he intends to make every effort to qualify for the skateboarding team — in fact, he’s viewing skateboarding’s Olympic debut as exactly what he needs to stay motivated for snowboarding.
Appearing on the “Tony Robbins Podcast” recently, White said Olympic skateboarding might be the compliment in his life which brings him back to the next Winter Olympics.
“After I’m done skating, I’m gonna hate skating, I’m gonna wanna go snowboarding,” White told Robbins. “And sitting here right now, you couldn’t drag me to the mountain. But after two whole years of skateboarding, I’m gonna be ready to go back, and I’m gonna have this fire that those other competitors won’t, because they’ve been in the same thing every day trying to find that passion to keep them going, and it’s tough.”
White told Robbins he was in the car on his way to pick up his gold medal from the 2018 Olympics when he decided he would try to get a spot in the skateboarding qualifiers, whenever they may be.
On April 18, the qualifying schedule was made official, with the first U.S. event a competition with which White is quite familiar, the summer Dew Tour, taking place June 13-16 in Long Beach, California.
“This is truly a historic time for skateboarding as we embark on the first-ever Olympics, and to have Dew Tour leading the qualifying charge is an honor,” said Adam Cozens, vice president and general manager of Dew Tour.
‘IT WAS BAD’
White has notched multiple wins on the summer Dew Tour, where he won several contests in halfpipe skateboarding, a discipline known as “vert,” from 2006 to 2011.
Vert, however, is not among the disciplines chosen for the Olympics, so White has had to adapt to the discipline known as “park,” where a skateboarder catches air onto transitions similar to vert. The venue is a combination of several quarter pipe and halfpipe-like features joined together in a large bowl.
In December, White told Karen Rosen with Team USA about the steep learning curve he’s had to adjust to in his journey from vert skating to park skating.
“The formats are different, the athletes are different, the judging’s different,” White told Rosen. “I was falling during my runs and the thing I didn’t realize is that it’s called the ‘jam’ format. So it’s not like you go, then I go, then you go. No, everyone goes at the same time and I’m worried about crashing into people.”
White competed in September in a competition in Marseille, France, and didn’t make the 15-man semifinal.
“It was bad,” White told Rosen. “I had really a poor performance and I’m very happy that happened because now I know where to be, where the level of the young skateboarders is at and I’m hoping to take that loss as a motivator to now get to that place and hopefully start winning.
“It’s just kind of learning the lay of the land,” White added. “So going to those things and doing terribly is exactly what I needed to do.”
ONLY 20 PER DISCIPLINE
In addition to the absence of a halfpipe, skateboarding will also differ from snowboarding in the fact that only 20 athletes will compete in each discipline. Halfpipe snowboarding allowed a total of 30, with a max of four from a single country. Skateboarding will allow a country a maximum of six total from both disciplines, park and street.
The best chance for any athlete to qualify will come at the World Skateboarding Championships in 2020, which will be an opportunity for three male and three female skateboarders to qualify outright as the top three male and female World Championships finishers. The host country, Japan, will get an automatic entry to the Olympics, as well, and the remaining spots will be decided based on the top-16 rankings over the 2019-2020 qualifying period.
That period begins May 26 in London at the season opener of the 2019 World Skate/SLS World Tour. The June 13-16 Dew Tour will serve as the first Olympic qualifier taking place in the U.S.
Currently, White is not on the list of invited athletes to Dew Tour in June.
With invites hard to come by, less skateboarders overall competing than snowboarders and park being a new discipline for White, his chances at competing in Tokyo are indeed slim.
But if his media hits are any indication, White has been practicing park skating quite a bit. And to that end, White also is already bringing something to skateboarding which he was known for in snowboarding — out-of-industry sponsors. A commercial for Biofreeze that’s currently getting hundreds of thousands of views on Instagram shows White getting big air on park features before crashing and applying the product.
The commercial describes White, 32, as a “kid phenom now beating kids half his age.”
Josh Friedberg, the CEO of USA Skateboarding, describes White as an interesting case in skateboarding.
“I know he’s been practicing and skating a lot more on that mission right now,” Friedberg told The Associated Press. “The park discipline doesn’t necessarily line up with his strength in skateboarding, which is vert skating, but you never count a person like Shaun White out. He is the ultimate competitor. So if there’s anybody who could get it together and qualify for the Olympics, Shaun could potentially do that.”
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