Shaun White won a gold medal last night. Not only did he win a gold medal, it was his 3rd gold medal (2006, 2010). Not only did he win his 3rd gold medal, it was the 100th gold medal for the United States in Winter Games history. Not only did he win the 100th US gold, he did it in dramatic fashion. Having scored the highest in Tuesday morning’s (Monday night our time) qualifier, Shaun White had the luxury of going last. So when the final (3rd) round came around, he knew exactly what score he needed to beat. And beat everyone he did.
It was a walk off win, a buzzer beater, a game winner. What a moment. I literally stood up and started clapping. I even yelled. It was a rush of emotions for me as it was for many Americans I’m sure. Obviously that run was insane. I mean he opened with back to back 1440’s for crying out loud (that’s 4 full turns for you newbs). It’s far beyond my pay grade to determine how they nail those tricks with such ease, let alone land on the exact right spot of the halfpipe. But it was amazing to watch whether you’re a snowboarder yourself, a casual fan, or just a red-blooded American.
And it got me thinking that moments like these are why we watch the Olympics. It’s commonplace these days to say the Olympics mean nothing to you, you don’t care, yada yada yada. I’m not all that into it myself, but I’ll watch certain events when they’re on (i.e. Ice skating, shout out Johnny Weir). What I’m trying to get at is I didn’t really have much interest in the snowboarding halfpipe event. Just because I’m jealous of anyone who snowboards and “shreds the gnar” doesn’t mean I’m locked in on the X games or the snowboarding events. But I was LOCKED IN last night; eyes glued to the screen.
Shaun White has been somewhat of a figurehead for U.S. sports over the last decade or so. Lots of people think he’s a dick (he may be), and I know he’s been hit with some sexual assault allegations over the years. I’m not saying he’s a great dude, in fact he may be a grade-A scumbag, but in terms of his athletic prowess alone, his talent and presence have been and remain undeniable. All over the country last night, casual TV watchers found themselves massive Shaun White fans. I’d bet the majority of people watching had no idea Shaun White was even competing, but when the stakes were highest, when the gold medal was literally on the line, we were all pulling for him. And that’s why the Olympics are great.
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