Shaun White is hoping to make history at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics — going for a record fourth Olympic gold medal. And the record he'd break would be his own, as the snowboarder with the most gold medals in history.
So who better to answer some of your biggest questions about snowboarding than the legend himself?
White joined TODAY remotely from his home in California ahead of the Winter Games to answer the most googled questions about snowboarding, from who to watch in Beijing to why snowboarders carry backpacks and wear mittens, and whether there's beef with skiers on the slopes.
Who are the snowboarders to watch in Beijing?
"I would hope I’m one of the top snowboarders you’d want to tune in to see," White said, in a bit of understatement. "And there’s an amazing Australian Snowbird named Scotty James, and then amazing Japanese snowboarders, one named Ayumu (Hirano), and then another one named Yūto (Totsuka). The four of us will be the ones really kind of battling it out, I think, at this next Olympics. And then on the women’s side, definitely for the USA would be Chloe Kim, who will be defending her title."
Why do snowboarders wear backpacks?
"Snowboarders wear backpacks because they have to have a lot of equipment with them. It’s like survival gear," White explained. "You usually have a shovel, and you have a probe and the probe is if somebody gets caught in an avalanche, you then take this probe and stick it down through the snow to see if you feel a human being under the snow."
White said he's never been in a situation where he's needed that gear — "put a knock on wood here." But backpacks are also handy for carrying snacks, water and warmer gloves.
"It’s kind of like wearing your seatbelt in the car. You hope you never have to use it, but you got it."
Do snowboarders have to wear helmets?
Snowboarders used to think it was "not cool to wear them," until the tricks got so complicated, they became a necessity. Now they're mandatory in competitions.
White had close calls that made him grateful for the helmet, especially when he was younger. He remembers a particularly frightening experience when he was 9 years old.
"I was small, so people didn’t really take me seriously. And I had a snowboarder jump off the side of the jump as I was going for it because he didn’t think I would attempt a jump that big."
The snowboarder crashed into White, and his board hit the side of his helmet, leaving a big mark. White has worn a helmet ever since.
Why do snowboarders wear mittens?
"That may be — not a myth, there’s a lot of mittens going on up there — but I like gloves," White said. "I’d have to say it’s a personal preference. But mittens are nice, because you can easily put the hand warmers in there."
White said he prefers gloves so he can throw a peace sign.
Why do snowboarders sit down?
"You know, we get tired," White said. Stopping on a run is "like a bicycle pulling up at a light and you take a foot off, and you put it on the ground rather than just kind of sitting there trying to balance. ... Plus we don’t have poles, so we can’t like lean, you know?"
White said he tries to stand as much as he can because sitting gets cold, and your hands get wet.
Do snowboarders hate skiers and vice versa? Is there some kind of beef?
"That’s kind of from back in the day. I think everybody nowadays is like, pretty cool with one another," White said.
When snowboarding first became popular, there was "kind of a feud," he said. "Nowadays, especially in the Freestyle world, it’s not a big deal. The only times I see beef between skiers and snowboarders is the Alpine" because their cultures and focus is so different, he said.
"Ours is based off of like, our style and like what music we’re into, and the new trick I’m working on and this and that and they’re like, how fast can I be? How can I shave seconds off this time?"
What music do you play on runs?
White said he's a fan of oldies like Aretha Franklin, Al Green and Frank Sinatra, plus newer rock bands like the Black Keys and Tame Impala. For competition, he's played a lot of AC/DC or Led Zeppelin.
"You need something that’s kind of like, got some push to it," he said. "You’re only hearing the first bit of it, so it needs to come in strong."
But when he spoke to TODAY, White had not yet picked a song for Beijing.
"The song I feel like usually finds me ... so I'm kind of waiting for that," he said. "It’s good to have a song because usually, you know, you’re kind of like the horse in the start gate. You hear the pistol go or you hear that song and it clicks back into this situation," he said.
Hearing the right song, he said, those nerves "turn into, maybe this is my day. Maybe this is my moment."
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