The Flying Tomato soars no more. Shaun White, the three-time U.S. Gold medalist, hung up his cape Friday after finishing fourth in the snowboarding halfpipe in the Beijing Olympics. The 35-year-old says he’s calling it a career after his fifth Olympic games.
As the results made it to this side of the world, millions wished him well and thanked him for all of the highlights.
“Thank you for all your runs, Shaun,” Henry Winkler tweeted.
White walked into the Olympic Games as an underdog. He was the oldest competitor in the sport he revolutionize and made popular. Despite falling on his first run, White bounced back and held on to second place for a short time, Time said. But at the end of the round, White sat in fourth place headed into the finals where he would finish.
Japan’s Hirano Ayumu took gold. Australia’s Scotty James won silver, and Swiss rider Jan Scherrer took home a bronze medal.
White was one of the most dominant and important figures in snowboarding. Many of his competitors watched him as kids set records that still stand. They were magnanimous in victory, White said.
“All my fellow competitors were so kind,” he said. “A lot of them patted me on the back and told me that the tricks in the sport wouldn’t be where it is today without my pushing, and I want to thank them for having me and supporting me and letting me do my thing.”
Shaun White Says Goodbye to the Winter Olympics
Shortly after finishing his final run, Shaun White tried to make sense of what just happened. He wanted to win “so badly” to close his career as a champion. White won gold and America’s affection during the 2006 games in Turin as a 19-year-old with a mop of long red hair that poked out from beneath his helmet. His laid-back, whatever-makes-you-happy style embodied his native Southern California hometown.
White thought about giving up the Olympics competition following after failing to medal at the 2014 Sochi Games. But he bounced four years and was able to win America’s 100th Gold medal of the 2018 PyeongChang Games. He hoped to repeat this year.
Shaun White broke down in tears at the bottom of the halfpipe. The gravity of the moment was overwhelming.
“I just want to thank everyone for watching,” he said. “Everyone at home, thank you. Snowboarding, thank you. It’s been the love of my life.”
White’s legend will only grow from here. He built the halfpipe into one of the most electric sports of the Winter Olympics. That isn’t lost on him.
“Everybody was asking me what my legacy in this sport has been, and I’m like, ‘You’re watching it,” he said. “These younger riders, they’ve been on my heels every step of the way. To see them finally surpass me is, I think, deep down what I always wanted. To be beaten, to finally walk away without feeling like, ‘I could have done this…’”