Shaun White is standing in the parking lot of the L.A. Exposition Center just south of the Coliseum. It’s essentially a live construction site where a large crew of human beings wearing hard hats are converting the barren stretch of concrete into a skate park, street-style snow park, and gigantic multi-stage concert venue. There is much bustling, beeping, and transporting.
Shaun just took NBC and ABC for a tour of the venue with fellow Olympic medalist (and recent Ivanka Trump Twitter pal) Kyle Mack in a souped-up golf cart, and now he makes his way over to our ragtag team to discuss the most recent events of his whirlwind life. I can tell he’s feeling good. He’s back home in California. He gets to pet his dog, whom he missed dearly in South Korea. And he’s about to kick off Air+Style, an event he acquired a few years ago that combines everything that he loves: snowboarding, skateboarding, music, and good food. It’s a brisk 55 degrees in L.A., but the sun just came out. He is happy. His third Olympic gold medal is in his pocket.
We transport for a second back to the top of the hill in South Korea.
Knowing he needed to complete the same trick that put him in the hospital in New Zealand with 62 sutures to reclaim his spot at the top of the Olympic throne, he admitted, was a scary proposition. On any other day, he wouldn’t have pulled that run out of the hat. He knew what hung in the balance was once-in-a-lifetime. I imagine moments like these are why great athletes breathe.
“Injuries, all these things, getting to the Olympics, finally having my shot, putting in a great run, having my score beat, falling on the second run, and it’s all down to this,” White recalls. “I remember standing up there thinking, ‘I want to win this.’ I want to win it for me, for my family, for the States, for my country, everything. And it all boiled down to this moment.”
“I’ll never forget standing there, because it was unusually silent. Everyone’s kinda like on pins and needles at the bottom waiting for me to go. It’s never been that quiet on the mountain. I recognize the song that was playing, and I was kinda like, ‘This is my moment.’ And I just went.”
The rest is history.
A few tears of joy shed at the bottom of the run on television, and America was gifted 2018’s consummate Olympic comeback story. While plenty appreciate a story of this ilk, few seem to publicly appreciate it more than SNL star and Shaun White super fan, Leslie Jones.
“Leslie is the best. I met her at the SUmmer games in Rio, and she was so pumped to see me, and just having her come out to the Olympics and send me some videos after I won. She’s the best. She makes me very happy.”
However, Leslie will not be in attendance at Air+Style. She’s filming for Saturday Night Live. She’s here in spirit, says White. But two of White’s dearest supporters will be there: Steve and Leroy. Steve is his French Bulldog, and Leroy the Good Boy is his Morkie (a Yorkie, Maltese).
“He usually makes an appearance after the Phantogram set.”
Now, we’re firmly transported back into the Exposition Center parking lot. Construction whirrs around us, and White is frothing for it to begin. Of all the bands on the lineup, he seems most excited that Phoenix is playing, but then he looks back down at Leroy the Good Boy’s Instagram, thumbs through a pic of him wearing a scarf, a flannel, and a gold chain, and it’s apparent that, really, he’s just excited to hang with his dogs.
Video shot by Aika Lau and edited by Alex Smolowe.