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Shaun White: supreme talent and overcoming adversity – five things to know about a snowboard legend

WANAKA, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 26:  Shaun White of the United States of America poses after winning the Men's Snowboard Halfpipe final during day five of the Winter Games NZ at Cardrona Alpine Resort on August 26, 2009 in Wanaka, New Zealand.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

American Shaun White is a true Olympic legend, having one two gold medals and attracted worldwide interest thanks to his thrilling style and fascinating back story. Here are five facts about the snowboarding superstar…

1. Heart problems

White was born with ‘tetralogy of fallot’, meaning he had four different heart abnormalities. He had to undergo several surgeries as a baby and was kept in an incubator at the hospital. In fact, White still keeps a pair of baby socks his mother gave him – they were all she was allowed to dress him in after he was born.

2. A skateboarding start

Despite his heart problems, White’s parents refused to wrap him in cotton wool. Instead, they allowed him to take up skateboarding at the age of five. He also went snowboarding every weekend with his family from an early age. White proved a natural at both sports. The legendary Tony Hawks became his skateboarding mentor and White turned pro at the age of 17. He remains the only competitor to have won gold in different events at both the Summer and Winter X Games.

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3. Highs at Vancouver 2010

White’s first run in the halfpipe at the Olympic Winter Games Vancouver 2010 was so good that he would have won gold without going out again. Of course he did – and his score of 48.4 (50 is the highest you can get) was a whopping 3.4 ahead of his closest rival. The American also drew the biggest worldwide television audience of the entire Games.

4. Gaming star

The snowboarder is part of an exclusive group of athletes to have had their own computer game, alongside the likes of Tiger Woods and Hawks. Shaun White Snowboarding was released in 2008, became a best seller, and has had several sequels.

5. Face of the Games

By White’s lofty standards, Sochi 2014 was a flop, as the double gold medallist failed to even win a medal in the halfpipe. Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchikov clinched gold, but White still proved the main draw: afterwards it emerged he had been the most talked-about Winter Olympic athlete on Facebook.


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