The GOAT of snowboarding Shaun White has officially retired after finishing fourth in the men’s halfpipe final at the Beijing Winter Olympics, leaving behind one of the most incredible legacies of any professional athlete in the history of sport.
The event was won by Japan’s Ayumu Hirano with Australian star Scotty James winning silver, while Australian teenager Valentino Guseli finished sixth in his maiden appearance at the Winter Olympics.
White is a five-time Olympian and was in tears as he received a standing ovation after his final run in the halfpipe final.
The 35-year-old American crashed out in his third and final run and removed his helmet and raised it in the air as the crowd cheered as he glided down the course.
“That’s it,” White could be heard saying to the television cameras. “I wanted it. My legs were giving out on me every hit.”
White has had an incredible career and won three Olympic Gold medals, the most of any snowboarder, plus 13 X-Games gold medals in snowboarding and another two in skateboarding.
In an emotional interview with Channel 7 after the halfpipe final, White’s long-time rival Scotty James was asked: “how important this guy’s (Shaun White) been for the development of your sport?”
James became emotional as he replied “Well, it’s OK to be upset, because I just about starting crying myself. I have never expressed it. To Shaun, obviously huge respect to him. The guy is the GOAT.”
“What I have never said before, it’s a really tough and interesting situation where you come up against a guy like Shaun White who I looked up to when I was younger. And I aspired to no doubt be like you. There’s this level where I get to where I become competitive,” James said.
James said White, affectionally known as the ‘flying tomato’, has been an inspiration to him throughout his career.
“He was a big inspiration to me when I was younger and then he became a rival of mine. Getting to compete here in his final Olympic Games is pretty special,” James said.
White has inspired a new generation of snowboarders such as 16-year-old Aussie Valentino Guseli who said he was proud of his sixth place finish in what was his first Winter Olympics.
“I’m super stoked. I kind of struggled in practice and was really doubting myself because of how bad it went,” Guseli told Channel 7.
“I crashed almost every run in practice. I’m just super happy to put all my runs down and that last run was probably one of the best I’ve done. I was stoked to get to the bottom.”
The new generation of snowboarders will continue to look up to White who was dubbed a ‘superhero’ by 21-year-old American snowboarder Toby Miller.
“He’s basically every little snowboarder’s superhero if that makes sense. I still look up to him,” Miller said.
“He’s still such a great, he’s the GOAT, he’s the greatest of all time in the halfpipe. He’s my best friend. I look up to him like an older brother.”
So while White hangs up his helmet after one of the most celebrated sporting careers of all-time, he leaves behind a legacy that not only has helped bring snowboarding into living rooms around the world, but will inspire the next generation of riders to progress to dizzying new heights.
Watch this space, because there are big things on the horizon for snowboarding now that the Flying Tomato has clipped his wings.