Shaun White has long been known as the greatest snowboarder on the planet, and the living legend knows he must bring his A-game in the men's halfpipe during the 2014 Olympic Games to ensure he wins his third gold medal in a row in the premier snowboarding discipline at Sochi, Russia.
There's a whole new generation of young stars rising to knock White off his perch as the top superpipe rider in the world.
And White, at the age of 27, isn't getting any younger.
Competition among the top international snowboarders has continued to rise in intensity since White utilized his Double McTwist 1260 (Tomahawk) to claim gold in Vancouver at the 2010 Winter Games.
For instance, Iouri Podladtchikov, who's also known by the moniker "I-Pod," has come up with a trick so crazy, so extreme, that White himself had to take notice and see if he could replicate it, as reported by Pat Graham of the Associated press, via ABC News:
It's a double-cork 1440—four full twists packed inside of two flips.
That's a half-twist more than what Shaun White did at the last Olympics, when he won gold for the second straight time. It's the newest, toughest thing happening on a halfpipe. So extreme, in fact, that when White saw I-Pod land it, he abandoned what he was doing to try to copy it.
Podladtchikov knows he won't win a gold medal simply for being a trendsetter. But, he says, it's a good way to roll into the Olympics—a pretty nice opening move in the seemingly impossible mission to unseat White in Sochi.
White knows he must continue pushing the boundaries of his own physical limits to stay at the top of his sport.
This process has been broken down into video form in a recent documentary titled Russia Calling. The film covers his trials and tribulations, and it's a stark reminder that everything excellent we see in the final product comes at a high cost to the athletes involved.
Time and again, White takes brutal tumbles on hard-packed snow as he attempts to perfect difficult new tricks or polish up ones he's used in the past. Clearly, halfpipe snowboarding isn't for everyone, but White still has the passion to continue enduring the abuse.
“A lot of the footage you’re seeing is me trying to break down a barrier in my own head and my mindset to get this done,” White says in an interview with the AP, via Eddie Pells of The Washington Times. “It doesn’t work that easily sometimes. This is the real story of what’s going on and what happens to athletes.”
When the action commences on the halfpipe Feb. 11, White will be the favorite to three-peat. He's the most technically sound rider in the world, and he's always pushing himself to go bigger and land tougher jumps.
That said, it's clear he'll need to show something new in order to ensure he wins his third consecutive gold medal in the high-profile event. In addition to I-Pod and his double-cork 1440, Danny Davis, Greg Bretz and Taylor Gold, among others, are breathing down his neck to become the next Olympic champion.
It's going to take a special run by the world's best pipe rider for White to earn the three-peat, but we couldn't ask for it to go down any other way.
Follow me on Twitter: @JesseReed78.
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