PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - Within minutes of winning a landmark third Olympic gold medal with a stunning performance in the snowboard halfpipe final on Wednesday, Shaun White was already looking to the future.
White will be 35 by the time the next Winter Olympics is held in Beijing in four years’ time but the American’s focus is on a less distant goal.
He wants to go to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020 to compete in skateboarding, which will be making its Olympic debut in Japan.
White’s assertion that he could compete with the world’s best skateboarders in Tokyo was not as outlandish as it might sound at first.
As his snowboarding career was just taking off, White was also competing as a professional skateboarder, winning Vert gold at the 2007 X Games, just a year after his first Olympic gold in the halfpipe.
In doing so, he became the first man to compete in and win gold medals at both the summer and winter X Games.
White felt the time has come to become reacquainted with his skateboard and he will have enough motivation to compete and win in Tokyo.
“I am excited about it, the motivation will be there, it is something new, less gear, new competitors,” White told reporters after the halfpipe final.
“It is like this muscle memory as many of the tricks here are similar to skateboarding, just a translation into a smaller board and not being strapped in.
“I have never actually taken a whole year to skateboard. In my whole career of winning skateboarding events I would always stop, do a whole winter, and then come back to skating. So I won’t have to re-learn everything.”
If White wins a skateboarding medal in Tokyo, he would become only the sixth person to win medals at both winter and summer Olympic Games. The most recent athlete to do so was American Lauryn Williams, who won medals in sprinting and the bobsleigh.
If White takes the challenge of entering skateboarding at Tokyo 2020, he could rely on his long-time friend and mentor Tony Hawk for encouragement.
Hawk, widely seen as the greatest skateboarder in history and a pioneer behind many of the tricks that skateboarding and snowboarding share, first met White when he was just nine-years-old and the pair have remained in contact ever since.
White talked effusively about the role Hawk has played in his development as an extreme sports athlete.
“Tony, thank you for being such a great inspiration for me and such a good role model for me to look up to. He told me to come win this thing and then sail off into the sunset and never touch a snowboard again,” White said.
“I hope he wishes me luck because I think I am going to go on to skateboarding.”
Reporting by Jack Tarrant; editing by Sudipto Ganguly