Will this be Shaun White's last Winter Olympics? Maybe. Or maybe not.
Notice that Shaun White said he was training for what would be his fifth Olympic Games, not his last one.
The three-time gold medalist said Tuesday he has no idea whether Beijing will be the end of his Olympic career. He’s said that before, only to find himself back in the halfpipe at the next Winter Games.
“I always say it might be just because that’s how it feels. And then time keeps moving on and I’m thinking, 'Gosh, I’m feeling pretty good, I’m motivated, I’m excited,’ and then boom! I’m at the next one,” the 35-year-old said Tuesday during an appearance at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s media summit for the Beijing Games.
“So I wouldn’t count the next one out after this.”
After winning gold again in Pyeongchang, White’s original plan for this quadrennium was the Summer Olympics. He’s equally successful as a skateboarder, and the idea of competing in his “other” sport when it made its Olympic debut in Tokyo was appealing.
But when the Tokyo Games were delayed by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, White decided he didn’t want to hurt his chances for Beijing by trying for Tokyo.
“Am I ready to walk away from snowboarding yet? And I just wasn’t,” White said of the decision. “So I obviously switched gears, focus, everything back to the winter sports, and it’s so exciting. I can’t believe we’re … back at it again. But it feels really good.”
Shortly after White announced that decision, in March 2020, the world effectively shut down because of COVID. Trips he would normally make to Australia and New Zealand to train weren’t possible because of travel restrictions.
He couldn’t even get into Canada to see girlfriend Nina Dobrev, who was filming a movie there.
“I tried! I was turned around,” White said. “I said 'Look, come on! I was at the Olympics here, you remember! I cut my hair.’”
Despite the disruptions it caused, White said he grew to appreciate the unexpected downtime he had during the early days of COVID. Instead of his time being consumed by training, commitments to sponsors or media interviews, he got to spend time with his family and friends.
He discovered he was handy around the house, even convincing Dobrev that they should paint their place themselves.
“When you’re forced out of that churn of the daily obligations and plans and all these things, you’re stuck with this stillness. Gosh, I really appreciated that lesson and I think I’ve carried that on with me, where I’m really content where I’m at,” White said.
“I found a lot of (contentment) during that time period. Once things started to open up again, I just felt like I still have that stillness,” he added. “I think I’m just operating on a level of appreciation just to be back here at this.”
Dobrev plays a big role in that.
White and The Vampire Diaries actress began dating in early 2020. Asked about her Tuesday, White talked about “this beautiful relationship I’m in.”
“Nina is incredible. What an influence on my life,” he said. “She runs her own show and her own world and companies she's involved in and things she's producing, all this stuff going on, and holds me to the same high standard, which is so wonderful to have in a partner.”
She’s also a pretty good snowboarder herself.
White said he’s not the best teacher or explainer of how to snowboard. Their first ride together, he took off and, when he turned around, discovered Dobrev wasn’t behind him. He figured she had fallen, and was trying to decide whether he needed to hike back up the mountain to find her.
Turns out, she had passed him.
“She was way faster than me!” White said.
“I told her, I was like, `I don’t know how the field is for Bulgaria, you may have a shot. Just saying. Just saying,’” White said, referring to the country where Dobrev was born. “Last-minute entry, Nina Dobrev, Bulgaria.”