Shaun White wins gold at 2010 Winter Olympics, the untold story

An exuberant Shaun White at 2010 Winter Olympics in Canada

What on earth is the Double McTwist 1260?

It’s where you flip diagonally two times in the air, and simultaneously spin for three and a half rotations. It’s a crazy, high-risk, highly complicated, and totally unbelievable move.

Shaun White invented it, and showed it to the world as he took gold in the snowboard half-pipe at Canada’s 2010 Winter Olympics.

He invented the stunning snowboard move at a super-secret location dubbed “Project X”. A private half-pipe complete with a foam pit built just for him on the backside of Silverton Mountain in southwestern Colorado, in an inconspicuous avalanche chute. It was reachable only by helicopter or snowmobile. There he also invented the double-cork, involving two off-axis rotations, or diagonal flips. The double cork has become the “premier” move that olympic snowboarders aim for.

It took Shaun three full days to invent and finally land the double-cork, but nobody else can yet do the Double McTwist 1260.

It’s his signature move.

After his first of two runs Shaun’s score (which he achieved without the signature move) left him in the lead. It was a score that left him in the lead even on the second set of runs by the other olympic competitors. Going into his second run, the last run of the event, he had already earned the gold. But instead of playing it safe, instead of stopping there, he decided to do another run and try the high-risk move.

It was an unbelievable moment, and he did it flawlessly.

Shaun didn’t lead a pampered life, but come from humble beginnings, overcoming a heart defect in his childhood called Tetralogy of Fallot, requiring two major surgeries. he also had to wear leg braces to correct severe bow-leggedness. But neither prevented him from following his dream and starting snowboarding at age 6.

Shaun had all the ingredients to engineer his life for success. He showed early on he had the passion, the commitment, the drive, and the willingness to work hard. But he had two more things that played a critical role for him to succeed, and become the top snowboarder in history.

The first was one of the less-well known, and less talked about components of Shaun’s success story. I’m talking about the incredible support and sacrifice of his parents

One of the less-well known secrets of Shaun’s success was the incredible support and sacrifice of his parents, Roger and Cathy White.

They didn’t have much money while Shaun was growing up. But they recognized Shaun’s potential. They loved him and believed in him, and were willing to support him, to the tune of a about $20,000 a year.

But his family was as committed to him as he was to snowboarding, so they’d all spend weekends at snowboarding events, living out of a 1964 van they nicknamed “Big Mo”. They’d cook meals on a stove in the back to save money.

Cathy would spend weeks shuttling back and forth between hauling Shaun to Mammoth to board, and waiting tables in San Diego. By 2002, her 1998 Honda had accumulated 180,000 miles.

Their support paid off. Shaun White now earns over $9 million anually in sponsorships, putting him second only behind the famous Tony Hawk in Forbes’ 2008 list of highest paid athletes in action sports. He even has a video game now.

The second external ingredient to his success in accomplishing his dreams and achieving his goals (one of them the 2010 Olympic gold medal – his second), was his coach, Bud Keene.

One of the things that impressed me the most was his coach’s instruction right before Shaun began his second run at the 2010 Olympic snowboard half-pipe in Canada. Shaun was at the top of the half-pipe with his coach before his final run when the last competitor’s score was posted, and they realized that he had already secured his gold medal. Here was the conversation:

Bud Keene: What do you want to do?
Shaun White: I don’t know man. Ride down the middle?
Bud Keene: No, have some fun.
White: Drop a double mick? (his signature move)
Keene: Yeah, drop a double mick at the end and … send that thing.

Shaun’s first instinct was to play it safe, but his coach pushed him to set a new barrier, to never stop pushing. Because of that advice, Shaun’s last run earned him an even higher score, and will go down in the records as the most amazing run in snowboard half-pipe history.

Of the many life-engineering lessons I’ve learned from Shaun White, here are the two top points.

1. Don’t just try to perfect what everybody else always does. Set your aim higher. Be inventive. Invent your own style, be yourself, do your own thing, set your own tone, make them follow you. Shaun has invented 5 of the most difficult snowboarding moves there are. Now he’s the one to follow.

2. Surround yourself with support. Good, positive support. You can’t break records totally alone, you do need help. Shaun had incredible parents (who deserve more credit), and a coach that pushed him. We all need our Tenzing Norgay.

To watch both of Shaun’s 2010 Olympic runs, including the now-famous double-mctwist 1260, click here:

For more info on Shaun, you can also visit his website at, or view NBC’s profile on Shaun here.  You can also watch an entertaining and inspiring video of NBC’s interview with Shaun here.

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