“It’s not easy being perfect”
That’s something my dad used to tell me when I was a kid. Son, ‘perfect is as perfect does!’ Actually, my dad never said that. I stole the line from a movie. I just substituted ‘perfect’ for ‘stupid.’ I was trying to find a way to get to my Shaun White story.
There have only been three perfect scores in the history of snowboarding halfpipe. Shaun White has two and Chloe Kim has one. Shaun White got his first 100, aka the perfect score, back at the 2012 X Games. I oughta’ know. I was announcing that day in Aspen. Critics argue that he touched the wall with his hand on his final hit in the pipe, meaning there is no way it could have been a perfect score with a hand touch. But that’s history now, right?
Fast forward six years later, almost to the day, and Shaun makes up for it, big time. And when it counted the most. Let me paint the picture: Shaun had just completed two runs of the three-run format at the Aspen Snowmass stop, the third of the Toyota US Grand Prix of Snowboarding, which are Olympic qualifiers. He found himself way down in the field, well off the podium. Australia’s Scotty James was in the top spot with a score just above a 95.00 after his third and final run. You can pretty much guarantee a win with a score like that in most situations. But this, as we know, was a different situation.
With one rider left to go, Scotty was preparing to uncork the champagne when Shaun White appeared in the start area. Shaun was the number one Qualifier the day before and earned the advantage to go last. This was gonna be no easy task because Scotty had already landed three different 1260 variations in his run. That’s the equivalent of spinning 10.5 complete rotations in one run. Probably one of the gnarliest things I had ever seen until Shaun stepped to the plate.
Shaun told me later, that before his run he asked his coach, 2002 Olympic snowboard halfpipe bronze medalist J.J. Thomas, what he should do? If you’re gonna have a coach, that’s a pretty darn good coach to have.
J.J. told Shaun, “You’ve been working on this podium winning run for some time now, so you might as well send it.” That’s pretty much what Shaun did, exactly. He sent it! It was a mix of Shaun White classics: the Skyhook, 1440, and two 1260’s, one of them being his signature Tomahawk. This was the biggest, baddest run I’ve ever seen in a halfpipe in my life!
So I’m losing my mind in the booth with my co-host, Mark Sullivan. We’re waiting for the score to come in, just freaking out about what we’d just witnessed. Then it comes in as a perfect 100. I scream into the mic, I think three or four times: “A Perfect 100, a Perfect 100, a Perfect 100!” I almost caused a blood vessel to burst in my cranium. My mind was officially blown! Final rider, final run, off the podium to winning it all. You can’t script it better than that in a Hollywood movie.
What an important win. Shaun was not a lock at that point to make the U.S. Team. He had two more events, counting that one, to get one more podium. In that contest, he had fallen twice and it was looking like it was going to be his second disappointing contest in a row. For that moment he was the old Shaun, committed to winning at all costs. That win automatically puts him on the 2018 U.S. Olympic Halfpipe Team with his ticket punched for Pyeongchang, South Korea. Shaun is going to his fourth consecutive Winter Games with two gold medals. He’s on the quest for a third. If Shaun rides in Pyeongchang like he did on that perfect day in Aspen, there’s no telling what could happen. One thing is certain: he will send it, so stay tuned.