It’s been a while since we’ve seen Shaun White, 34, in halfpipe action. Three years to be precise, when he won gold at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018.
A lot can happen in three years. Just ask Australian snowboarder Scotty James who took bronze to White’s gold at the same event.
The two athletes battled it out in the 17/18 season in the lead up to PyeongChang with White scoring a perfect 100 in the Snowmass FIS World Cup in January before the games (James took silver with 96.25) then pulling out of the X Games the week later (James went on to take gold).
In 2021, 26 year old James is now the one to beat out of the two. James competition medal tally is impressive with a record 11 gold medals in a row at elite competition level in the 18/19 and 19/20 seasons.
He is also Australia’s most successful male snowboarder to date – a three time FIS World Champion, an Olympic bronze medalist at PyeongChang in 2018, five times X Games medalist (3 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze) and has 11 FIS World Cup medals (6 gold,4 silver, 1 bronze) plus a couple of Crystal Globes and various other podiums including Dew Tour.
Both White and James will be in the lineup at the Aspen X Games SuperPipe this weekend, the first to be held without a live crowd due to Covid restrictions.
“I knew he was going to come back at some point, but am stoked to have him up there back competing” said James of White, in a virtual Aspen X Games press conference this week.
“Everyone is riding super well, you can’t look past the Japanese, they’re always a huge force and every single year there’s a new kid coming up in their group. Yuto is around and Hirano will eventually come back and it’s a tough field for sure.
“I’m always on my toes and I’m being healthy, riding and pushing myself and making sure I don’t get complacent in my competitive world.”
White last won X Games gold in 2013. Though he’s won more gold at X Games than any other competitor – 15 gold medals with 13 from snowboarding and 6 of those in the halfpipe. Not to mention those three Olympic golds in 2006, 2010 and 2018. He’s hoping for a place on the USA Team for Beijing 2022, if time and results are on his side.
“Shaun’s an amazing competitor and pioneer of snowboarding,” continued James of White’s X Games invitation.
“But I think all of us in the halfpipe are riding pretty well so it’s going to be myself against him and everyone else too, and he’s in that exact same boat.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to do well in the past few years but now I’m being pushed by a lot of people around me and with people like Shaun and others coming back into the mix it’s going to be an exciting event.”
Look out for James Red Bull helmet, it may just be the new one designed by the kids from the Challenge cancer charity and featuring a unicorn, bunny rabbits, water melon and more. This is the second year that he’s collaborated with Red Bull and Challenge to raise awareness for the charity.
James is coming in to the X Games off the back of silver in the LAAX Open where Japan’s Yuto Totsuka took gold and is a contender to take that gold again in the SuperPipe event in Aspen.
X Games Aspen will have live coverage of the event on ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC in the USA and ESPN on Foxtel in Australia (Monday 12.30pm is the halfpipe final AEDT).
Fans can follow along @AspenSnowmass & @XGames across social channels for behind-the-scenes look into X Games Aspen.