Shaun White is the face of Snowboarding... er, half-pipe snowboarding. The Travis Rices, Nikolas Mullers and Jeremy Jones' of the world may have their say in freeriding and super park. But halfpipe is unmistakebly White's.
From the International Olympics to the X-Games, the Flying Tomato dominates the podium of every halfpipe competition he enters. Some argue he is the Tiger Woods of halfpipe snowboarding; with his competition a few notches below him not only in technical execution of tricks but amplitude out of the halfpipe. Literally owning the "Double Cork," (involves two flips, multiple spins, and at least 20 feet of height in the air) White's competition are still trying to catch up to his trick bag.
Not to take anything away from the foresight or gymnastic ability of White, but the elevation of his riding ability was given an unfair advantage by Red Bull building him a private halfpipe, with a foam pit and helicopter pad. This gives this rider an unfair edge over any other rider on the planet.
White invented the double cork on a private 167-metre (550ft) long halfpipe (a structure like an inverted tunnel with facing concave ramps), built by his sponsor, Red Bull, at Silverton Mountain in south-west Colorado, for an estimated cost of $500,000. Accessible only by helicopter and with a soft, foam pit built into one wall, the structure allowed White to try tricks he had "contemplated for years" without risk of injury.
All I am saying is give the rest of the competition access to such training facilities and you will see the sport taken to another level. Keeping White the sole athlete with access to such a halfpipe is unfair to those looking to drive the progression of the sport.
Kevin Pearce, one of White's top competitor's, landed on his head in Utah while attempting the trick. Pearce was in a coma for a week and may never ride a halfpipe again.
Fellow Olympian Greg Bretz from Mammoth Lakes has been attempting and landing the double cork as well, without the luxury of White's error free foam pit. Other riders are pushing the limit and their lives trying to keep up with the progression of halfpipe riding. Finding trial and error with every bruise and bump alongside their competitors.
If we continue to give Shaun White the face of snowboarding for only mastering halfpipe riding, give the other riders he competes against their own halfpipes with foam pit walls. I'm sure the real athletes wouldn't even need the helicopter to get back to the top of the halfpipe.
Until all riders have access to a halfpipe with a foam pit, White is a cheater. I claim there are dozens of riders better than America's ginger golden boy.
Shaun White is the face of snowboarding to those who don't ride often. He does not represent those that gorilla session the parks and city, the freeriders that never set foot on a resort, nor the true athletes without multi million dollar funding for private halfpipes with foam pits.