You’ve heard of Shaun White. As a two-time Olympic gold medalist, he’s one of the best snowboarders and skateboarders in the world, with the nickname “the Flying Tomato.” (He’s a redhead.) He holds the record for the most X-Games gold medals, and he has won 10 ESPY Awards. Shaun is back for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, competing in the men’s halfpipe snowboarding event. But if you’ve seen the athlete’s photos or social media pages, you might be wondering how Shaun got his face scar. It’s a pretty scary story, and one that almost had him missing out on the Games this year.
With his history, you might assume that Shaun was a shoe-in for this year’s Olympics, but that’s not exactly true. In fact, it wasn’t long ago that many assumed he wouldn’t qualify for the competition. Shaun took a one-year hiatus, then performed badly at the most recent X-Games (he took 15th place). As if that weren’t bad enough, he then got into a serious accident only about two months ago that left him very injured. It also left him with two noticeable marks on his face: a one-inch scar on his forehead and another smaller one right above his upper lip.
So what happened? Shaun crashed during training in October when he attempted a double-flip 1440. According to CBS, he was on a 22-foot superpipe in New Zealand when a miscalculation caused his face to slam into the rim of the pipe. He was wearing a helmet, but he still hit his face so badly that he ended up with 62 stitches overall. If you’re up for it, there’s even a video of the terrifying accident on Yahoo Sports — but it’s not for the faint of heart.
To make matters worse, he had fallen just a few weeks before, which had left him with a bruised lip, an injured liver, and bloody urine. Ouch. The first fall forced him to withdraw from a competition in New Zealand, and the second was almost enough to keep him out PyeongChang. He shared a photo of his injuries on Instagram.
He got through it, obviously, and told the Washington Post, “It could’ve been worse. I’m pretty fortunate. I feel like I’ve already healed up quite a bit. It’s just frustrating more than anything.”
Shaun is more than prepared for the Games, but it’s still going to be a tough one for him. He performed in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics but didn’t do very well and was left off the podium completely — a first for him. This year, he’s one of the oldest snowboarding competitors and one of the oldest competitors in general.
The odds are against him, but who knows? Shaun has clearly proven that he knows how to work through the bad stuff. We’ll be keeping our eye on his event!