Shaun White Owns the Hearts of Young America
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Nearly midnight, and everyone in the press conference seemed a tad weary after a long day. Except, of course, for the Olympic halfpipe champion, whose energy is as flowing as his hair.
Or maybe that should be the other way around. Anyway, Shaun White was discussing his electric future.
"There's been talk," he said, "of tattoos."
Someone mentioned meeting the president.
"I'm free for dinner."
Since the reporter from Great Britain asked White a moment before to sum up his staggering skills -- "in a nutshell could he tell us how far has he helped take his sport?"
"We're out of the nutshell."
Gotta love the kid. Defy you not to.
The subject is which USA Olympian owns the hearts and minds of the young generation. My fellow baby boomers -- for that matter anyone over 30 -- lets not miss the forest for the Flying Tomato.
Lindsey Vonn, Mrs. Mountain?
Shani Davis, landmark speed skater?
Apolo Ohno with the record medal haul?
All extraordinary athletes. But the answer is none of the above. Not even close.
We give you the irrepressible, the delightful, the unbeatable, the performer of the Double McTwist 1260.
Whatever that is.
There is cool, and then there is Shaun White cool.
There is winning a gold medal, and there is being so much better than everyone else, the rest of the world can barely see you with binoculars.
"I think it's impossible," Finland silver medalist Peetu Piiroinen was saying, "to beat Shaun White."
"I guess I'm the guy to beat," White said, master of his universe at 23. "It feels weird to be the guy answering that."
Ask your kids the Olympian they most want to watch. I'll bet the house money it's Shaun White.
"Being me is a strange thing sometimes," he was saying. "I have fun, I have dreams, I have goals, and I'm just now trying to do them."
So what next?
"Sleep, and then take on the world."
Gotta love him. Defy you not to.
His gold medal tour de force Wednesday night came in primetime, and if you think that was a coincidence, I've got a halfpipe course in Arizona to sell you.
His defiance of gravity is not to be missed. His fearlensess. His joy. Want to see one example why Shaun White is Shaun White?
He had his second straight halfpipe gold medal in the bag even before his last run, but rather than snap the ball and take a knee, it was showtime. He wanted the Double McTwist that could do nothing to get him the gold, but might end up with him getting a mouthful of Cypress Mountain ice.
He tried it, landed it. You could almost see every 18-year-old in America slapping hands.
"It was the savvy thing to do, saucy," he said just afterward. "I just felt like a righteous victory lap was in order."
And later: "I could have just run straight down the middle of the pipe, which would have been cool. I took the other route."
Lets be clear, we're not talking about a flighty Californian whose only focus is the next good time. He might be a laid back, fun-loving bumper crop of red hair, but when the moment of truth comes, he's a killer. It has not only made him an icon, but his 401(k) is off to a big start, too.
"Once you're at the top of the pipe," he said, "everything changes."
So that 1260 was no youthful whimsy. A star understands how much the audience loves an encore.
"It took blood, sweat and tears to land it. It is my friend and my enemy," he said. "I always felt like I wanted to put everything on the table. That's what that last run was about: showing everyone in the world on this big stage what I could do."
There is more to come. He was thinking leather would look really cool in four years.
"See you in Russia!"
Gotta love him. Rest assured, the kids in your neighborhood do.