This Day In Sports: The ‘Flying Tomato’ four-flips to gold

February 14, 2018, five years ago today: Shaun White wins his third gold medal in four tries over 12 years in the Olympic men’s halfpipe, as he turns loose an amazing final run at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang. For the first time in his life, White landed back-to-back 1440s—a maneuver that requires four full aerial revolutions—to help secure the win. He had never even practiced that combination. When his score was posted, the 31-year-old White fell to the snow, bawling. A huge weight was lifted after he had failed to reach the podium in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

Four years later at the 2022 Beijing Games, White finished fourth in the halfpipe and announced it would be the final competition of his career. When he finished his run, competitors lined up at the bottom of the course to congratulate him on his legacy. White was a five-time Olympian and those three halfpipe gold medals were the most golds ever won by a snowboarder. “Snowboarding, thank you. It’s been the love of my life…it’s been a journey,” said White after his finale. “I can’t wait to see where this sport goes.”

White’s dad was a surfer in Southern California, and he learned the sport as a kid. Those skills lent themselves to skateboarding, and White was mentored by the legendary Tony Hawk and turned pro in that sport at the age of 16. Consequently, those new skills lent themselves to snowboarding. White also holds the career record for most gold medals in the X Games with 15—13 of them came in snowboarding and two in skateboarding.

White was born with a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot. He had to undergo two heart surgeries before he turned one, and he became involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2008. White has granted 17 wishes since. When he failed to medal at Sochi in 2014, for example, he made the Olympics count in other ways. White hopped over the fence after qualifying for the halfpipe final to embrace two Make-A-Wish recipients and cancer survivors from the U.S. He greeted them with high-fives, and there were tears.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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