ZHANGJIAKOU, China — Shaun White ended his remarkable career on Friday morning on a remote mountain in the middle of China. There’s something fitting about that, the fact that a kid once known as the “Flying Tomato” helped grow the sport of snowboarding to the point that it literally encompasses the entire world.
White did three final runs in the halfpipe final. He had two solid runs, runs that probably would have won him gold in 2006 or 2010 or 2014, before crashing out early in his third run. But the rest of the world has caught up to the three-time gold medalist now, and White finished just off the podium in fourth place.
Japan’s Ayumu Hirano won the gold medal with two monster runs that included a triple cork, the first time the trick has ever been done at the Olympics. Australia’s Scotty James took home the silver and Switzerland’s Jan Scherrer won bronze.
The fact that White lasted as long as he did in a sport known for perpetual progression is a small miracle in itself. He wasn’t here at the Olympics as some relic; he earned his way onto the U.S. squad, then fought his way into the finals with a dramatic all-or-nothing qualifying run Wednesday.
“The goal has been to just squeeze every bit of fun and excitement and joy out of this experience,” White said earlier in the Olympics. “I’m having as much fun as I can. I really want to finish my career strongly on my own terms and put down some solid runs. If I could do that, I’ll be very happy.”
White will now move on to the next phase of his life — one that will include everything in snowboarding but competition. He’s done all he needed to there, and it’s up to the next generation to run the show now.
This story will be updated.