Shaun White, love him or hate him, is possibly the greatest competition snowboarder of all time. The snowboarding community are often split over his skill and drive in the sport but one thing you can't doubt is how he has helped shaped competition riding over the past decade.
Before picking up his first Winter X-Games Gold in 2002 Shaun was also making a noise in the world of skateboarding and was often seen as a prodigy of Tony Hawk. Over the summer months Shaun still skates as often as possible, though his fierce competitiveness and the fact skating is seen as his second sport has often led to a similar reaction with skateboarding to that from the snowboarding community.
Not one to let these opinions affect him Shaun has spent the second half of this summer killing it on the Dew Tour, already racking up back-to-back gold medals. In the last event he was evidently the best competitor, and though the like of Bob Burnquist & Sandro Dias were there, the amplitude of his tricks blew the competition away.
Roll back to the Vancouver Olympics, with an awkward build up to the competition - Kevin Pearce, Shaun's main competition, suffered what could yet be a career ending head injury - the 'Flying Tomato' again wow'd the crowds. After Pearce's injury practicing the now well documented double-cork, there were calls from the organisers to ban the extremely technical, dangerous and awe-inspiring trick. Many of the world elite including Peetu Piiroinen and Scotty Lago were throwing down huge variations from their repertoire along with the famous double-cork, though White pulled his incredible variation of the trick - the Tomahawk - out of the bag.
Some argue that he lacks the spirit of riders such as Travis Rice or Britain's Scott McMorris, yet none of us can under-rate his undoubted skills and drive to succeed. For many snowboarders the way his riding centres around competition doesn't represent what snowboarding is all about. His movie parts are limited compared with most big name riders and most snowboarders relate to their favourite riders by their style. The kids at the indoor slopes love to watch Mikey Le Blanc or JP Walker hitting rails and powder fans love to see Jeremy Jones and Travis Rice hiking ridiculous lines in Alaska & Japan. Though his parks runs are often immense and any freestyle fan loves to see his skills, his lack of riding natural terrain causes many to wonder if his skills are too calculated and not 'impromptu' reactions to the mountain around him.
Over the past few years Shaun White has bought snowboarding into the limelight. Along with his back-to-back Olympic Gold medals and his endless snowboarding and skateboarding X-Games wins he has taken on the world of media in a whirlwind of success.
How many snowboarders can boast a private half pipe? Well Red Bull built him one at Silverton Mountain prior to the Olympics. His attitude has landed him on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine and he even graced the pages of the US publication of Playboy (he did an interview as opposed to getting naked!). How many athletes can say they've been interview by David Letterman and Oprah Winfrey? His success in the media and his ability to promote the sport globally is a skill that comes second only to his riding.
The world's most famous snowboarder may not always be the world's most popular, but you have to say has become one of the most influential guys in the sport and comparable to Jake Burton, Terje Haakonsen, Shawn Palmer, Jamie Lynn and Travis Rice. To some he may be irksome, but he's also a legend.