SOCHI, Russia — He rose to the top of his game when snowboarding was as much a cultural statement as an Olympic event. And by bringing home gold from the Turin Games, Shaun White became the face of his sport: The Flying Tomato, a fun-loving, freewheeling dude just stoked to be knee deep in pow, bro.
Now the long red locks are gone, and combining the words “Shaun White” and “Enterprises” yields the name of a company that designs apparel for Target and sunglasses for Oakley. He’s rubbed elbows with Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. Snowboard’s rock star now has his own rock band, and he cops to spending less time on his board.
But White is still all about the gold. When he enters the halfpipe Tuesday, he will have a shot at becoming the first American male to win gold in three straight Winter Games. And some peers suggest that White has put winning that third gold above the carefree ethos of the sport he helped popularize.
When he pulled out of Saturday’s slopestyle event, citing concerns about the course, his Canadian rivals reacted as though he had played a dirty trick, and tweeted taunts to the effect that White had bailed because he knew he couldn’t win.
And it wasn’t just the enemy to the North; snowboard commentators from the US of A found fault with White’s single-minded focus on the single prize.
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