Guts and Grace Under Pressure Propel Shaun White to One More Moment of Glory

Guts and Grace Under Pressure Propel Shaun White to One More Moment of Glory

Kin Cheung/Associated Press

You wonder what the teenage Flying Tomato would have thought of the 31-year-old Shaun White that he has become. The red-haired mophead look has been replaced by the gelled-up salon cut. The fearless anti-establishment snowboarder is the establishment now.

And Wednesday morning in Pyeongchang, White had one last run to try to come from behind and win another Olympic gold medal in the halfpipe. Carrying the mental scars of Olympic failure from four years ago, he needed to drop in and produce the best run of his life—even better than those of today’s kids who have raised the level of daring in the sport he made famous.

Turin 2006GREG BAKER/Associated Press/Associated Press

That’s what made his gold medal win so incredible Tuesday night United States time. White did it. He won the gold, draped himself in the United States flag and walked off in tears.

“You know, honestly, I just felt it inside: I had it,” he told NBC when he was done. “I knew I had to put it down. You know, it’s so hard to describe. It’s the feeling like I knew I had it, but I had to still do it. I’m just working my way through the run, trick after trick, and it’s going well, better and better. And I’m riding away, and I can’t tell you how amazing it felt.”

Sometimes we overthink things in sports. Is Shaun White past his time? Is he really representing the mellow vibe of his sport? Is he on a redemption tour after his disappointing fourth-place finish in the 2014 Sochi Olympics?

Well, whatever.

Because his final run Tuesday wasn’t about any of that. Those are narratives that are sold to try to make spor

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