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“I just felt like I didn’t come to Vancouver not to pull out the big guns.”
Shaun White

Watching Shaun White win a gold medal last night at the Olympics in Vancouver brought back memories of Tiger Woods’ first big win at Augusta National back in ’97 when he won by a margin of 12 shots–the most in the tournament’s history. Woods was in uncharted territory. And so it is with White and his “Double McTwist 1260.”

You don’t have to know a lot about snowboarding to know that White is way ahead of the competition. And actually the comparison to Woods at this point in his career is fitting.  White began skiing with his family at age four which is around the time Woods began playing golf. Both were mentored by their fathers. And while White’s mother was also an avid skier, it was White’s father who would literally carry White on his back at times because White was so small that he would sink into the snow walking back up to get his runs on the halfpipe. White entered his first amateur snowboard contest at seven and won. He soon had his first sponsor.

White’s dedication and  talents stood out early and by the age of 12 he turned pro and soon began winning events and gaining more sponsors. By the time he was 16 he owned three cars and three homes. These days he earns $10 million a year. And after his gold last night those earning are just going to–like him on a snowboard–soar.

It’s easy to look at 23-year-old Shaun White with his casual smile and long red hair and forget that it’s taken him 19-years of work to put him in the position where he is now. It all goes back to the 10,000 rule–which White probably hit with snowboarding before he hit puberty. But along the way he also had a few major set-backs. The first came just after he was born when he had to have two major surgeries to correct a heart defect. About ten years later as a rising star skateboarder he collided on a doubles skateboarding run with Bob Burnquis that knocked him out and left him with broken bones and fractured skull. And a desire to quit. But his mom wouldn’t let him.

Then in 2002 he missed earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic team by three tenths of a point. All of those things set the stage for him to win the gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics. His money and fame haven’t seemed to diminish his passion for the sport.  But keep in mind that before he was cruising around in a Lamborghini he was cruising in a converted van/motorhome improving his skills far from his San Diego home.

“It was insane because we’d all just camp out in the motorhome. It would be my brother Jesse, myself, my sister Kerri, my dad and my mom all in a van. We’d take trips up to Mammoth and all over the place. It is funny now to fly first-class out to a mountain and stay in a nice hotel. It means so much more because of that.”
Shane White
Snowboarding Magazine

I wish White the best. But one thing we can learn from Tiger Woods (and quite a few other atheletes) is an early success does not mean there won’t be some bumps ahead in the road professionally and personally. Since this is a screenwriting blog I came across a fitting quote on that topic by Shane Black:

“I sort of slid off the map a little bit after Long Kiss Goodnight was such a failure back in the nineties, and I don’t know quite how I got back on the map. Because the turnover in these offices, the executives at the studios are now twenty-five, and they saw Lethal Weapon when they were eight—so there’s a sense of being an old-timer before I’m even an old-timer. I had to reinvent my career at age forty. That’s the disadvantage of succeeding early.”
Shane Black
Tales from the Script
Page 292

P.S. It’s funny to think that when I first started skiing in Colorado in the 80s snowboarding wasn’t allowed on some of the mountains. Times change. I’ve read in some places that snowboarders now make up more than half of the ticket sales. After watching Shaun White last night I wonder if any kids starting out want put on a set of skis.

Scott W. Smith

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