Shaun White on Sochi: 'The road here was not easy'

Megan Kopf Stackhouse / Today
Olympian Shaun White with Matt Lauer in Sochi.

UPDATE: Shaun White announced Wednesday in a statement to TODAY that he would not compete in the slopestyle competition, citing concern over the course. Tune in Thursday for the latest updates.

The story below was originally published Tuesday. 

Olympic snowboarder Shaun White is days away from competing for his third consecutive gold medal, but in an exclusive interview with TODAY’s Matt Lauer, the aerodynamic athlete describes how much tougher it was getting to Winter Games this time around.

“The road here was not easy,” said the 27-year snowboard veteran, in his only one-on-one interview before competing in Sochi, where he will attempt a third straight title on the halfpipe. He also will compete in the snowboard slopestyle, a new event added for Sochi.

In his interview with Lauer, White describes being in the unusual spot of having to fight to stay on top of his game.

“It was nice to kind of feel that pressure. I had this horrible crash in slopestyle that I wasn't ready for, and I had to get myself up and win,” he said. “I mean I basically had to go from the bottom of the barrel back to the top and it wasn't easy, but I got through it.”

White, who last year cut off his long trademark curly strands, has been battling a growing list of minor injuries while preparing for competition.

“I’m fighting it out. Look at this eye,” he said with a laugh while pointing to his shiner. “I’m in the brunt of it.”

The first of White’s two-part interview will air Thursday, Feb. 6, on TODAY. The second part will be broadcast on the show next Tuesday, Feb. 11.

White said he’s still weighing whether to pull out his top trick to secure a goal medal. If he does, it will be the frontside triple cork 1440.

“That’s the Hail Mary one,” he said.

“It’ll be heavy. I'm contemplating whether or not I need it, whether or not I should do it, I mean safety-wise and these things,” he said. “But I'm just going to feel it out. I don't even want to predict that I'm even going to go near it.”