X Games pay the bills, but White covets gold
ASPEN — As crowds of X Games fans gathered to watch the snowboard halfpipe elimination round, it was clear that no red and White left a number of fans feeling blue.
But for the biggest name in X Games, Shaun White, it was a logical decision to skip the competition and concentrate on competing for the red, white and blue.
The launching of F-bombs by one rad fan and shredder made it abundantly clear that he was more than a little (expletive) bummed out that his favorite (expletive) X Game athlete would not be competing this year.
On Sunday night, Danny Davis of the U.S. won the halfpipe competition and should be White’s No. 1 rival at the Olympics.
The normal who’s who in action sports was replaced by the who’s that?
There’s no doubt the Olympics, which start in less than a week, had a profound impact on the 2014 X Games.
White’s impact on the popularity and growth of the X Games is as profound as any athlete in any sport.
His golden résumé speaks for itself: two Olympic gold medals and six straight X Games gold medals.
There are a number of great athletes who compete in the X Games but if you don’t follow the sport, you don’t recognize any of the names.
Maybe it’s his cool nickname. Maybe it’s his phenomenal domination of the snowboard halfpipe competition for more than a decade. Whatever the reason, Shaun White is the X Games to many.
White’s priorities are clear. That’s why he skipped the X Games to continue preparing for the Olympics in Sochi. He has long said the Olympics are bigger and more important than the X Games. He feels more pressure when he wears the red, white and blue of the U.S.
The X Games culture and popularity has never been more evident than with this Olympics.
Of the 12 new Olympic sports added this year, eight come from the extreme action sports arena.
One new Olympic sport is snowboard slopestyle. White will also be looking to medal in this sport in Sochi.
Women’s snowboard halfpipe Olympian Hannah Teter has the same Olympic philosophy. She came to Aspen to watch but not compete.
“I wasn’t going to take too many risks, I just wanted to train and be ready to go,” Teter said.
Then she summed up the difference between the X Games and the Olympics.
“X Games I love because it’s way more fun and it’s mellow,” she said. “Olympics are way more hype and a lot more pressure. You get one shot and if you mess up you have four more years to wait.”
She won Olympic gold in 2006 and silver in 2010.
These athletes make huge money from sponsors and endorsements, making the X Games the Mount Everest of exposure for them. Every ski and snowboard competitor is a walking billboard for energy drinks, equipment and other merchandise.
The Olympic Games are the Mount Everest of competition.
White may have been pressured to compete in the X Games by sponsors. He initially said he would compete, then pulled out the day before the start of the games.
For White, it made little sense to compete.
Many Olympic purists are irritated that extreme sports are now part of the Olympics.
But there’s no denying the popularity of action sports. And there’s no denying the mingling of skill and danger fuel that popularity.
These are dangerous sports. And even the best crash and crash hard.
The 2014 X Games may be the best thing to happen to White as far as the snowboard slopestyle event is concerned.
As White was off practicing and recovering from a hard crash earlier in the month, the Olympic slopestyle favorite crashed at the X Games.
Canadian Mark McMorris was going for a three-peat in the event when he smashed into a metal rail and broke a rib.
When it comes to the X Games and all extreme action sports, the name Shaun White towers above the rest.
But his career is fast approaching the downside. These sports are for young people.
Now 27, and with neatly cropped hair, the Flying Tomato is completely focused on the Olympics, which could easily be his last.
His legacy is as chiseled as Mount Rushmore.
X Games pay the bills, creates the brand and solidifies the image.
But the Olympics are forever. They are about history. Olympic medals, competing for the red white and blue forge a truly legendary status.
Competing in the Olympics is about representing the USA.
For White, he remains the ultimate competitor. As the biggest name in action sports history, White wants to win more Olympic gold.
X Games are cool but this year, White’s crosshairs are on the XXII Winter Olympics.
The fun of X Games is over, it’s now time to get serious. They will compete as individuals but they are now part of Team USA.
Shaun White skipped the X Games because the Olympics are more important.
Gold is the goal, but it’s the red, white and blue that fuels Shaun White’s competitive spirit every four years.