Shaun White was already making an impact on the extreme-sports landscape for several years before the 2006 Winter Olympics. It wasn't until he claimed gold in the halfpipe event during the Turin Games that he truly became a household name, however.
Now, eight years later, he heads to Sochi as one of the most recognizable athletes on the United States team. He's seeking a third straight gold in the halfpipe.
The 27-year-old snowboarder has been a step above the competition in each of the past two Games. It will be interesting to see what type of new tricks he brings to the table this time around, as he attempts to raise the bar once again.
The most amazing thing about White's Olympic journey isn't just the fact that he's won two straight halfpipe gold medals, but rather the dominant fashion in which he's done it. He entered both Games with plenty of hype and had no problem matching those high expectations.
After making his way through trials, White is clearly looking forward to another opportunity to represent the United States:
In 2006, he had two runs above 45 points. One during the qualification round and the other in the final, when he posted a 46.8 in his first run. No other contender scored higher than a 44 in any run and only seven of the other 43 competitors even topped a score of 40.
Four years later, not much changed. White easily qualified for the final round with what, for him, would be a relatively average score of 45.8. As it turned out, however, that score would have even been enough to win gold.
The California native didn't stop there, though. He put on a show in the final round. During his second run, which was a victory lap of sorts, he pulled out all the stops and connected. The result was a 48.4 score, more than three points higher than anybody else.
Although the level of competition will likely be higher in Sochi, highlighted by Japanese rising star Ayumu Hirano, it's still hard to imagine White walking away with anything less than gold. He might not run away with the event again, but he's still the top dog.
Projection: gold medal
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