Famed sports writer Rick Reilly decided to do a lot research about Shaun White’s career accomplishments, comparing him to current and former great athletes like Rod Laver, Joe Namath, Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky and Tom Brady. Reilly even went so far as to say that White, “…might be the most exciting American Winter Olympics athlete we'll ever see.” Within all the fascinating statistical and historical comparisons was an interesting point brought up only by Reilly: That Shaun White could theoretically be the first Olympian since American Eddie Eagan in 1932 to win Olympic Gold Medals in both the winter and summer games.
White cemented his status during the recent Olympic Games in Vancouver as the greatest competitive snowboarder in the short yet exciting history of the sport. I withhold calling White the greatest snowboarder of all-time because outside of filming the movie First Descent, White hasn’t displayed the kind of backcountry skills one needs to truly claim the throne from snowboarding legends like Craig Kelly and Terje Håkonsen.
Yet while White has captured the world’s attention for his snowboarding heroics, his skateboarding achievements don’t always garner the attention it deserves. White remains the only athlete in X Games history to win Gold in both their summer and winter editions, and is the only skateboarder in history to attempt a 1080 in the halfpipe (he has yet to achieve this extremely challenging trick). White is also the first skateboarder to land the Cab 7 Melon Grab.
Given his incredible skills on both a snowboard and skateboard, White seems to be the only athlete with any chance of achieving what American Eddie Eagan did in 1932: Win both Summer and Winter Olympic Gold (Eason won Summer Gold in boxing and Winter Gold in the bobsled event). The only problem is, while the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has shown great interest in adding skateboarding to the Summer Olympics (the committee initially gave the green light to add skateboarding as an event for the 2012 Olympics in London), a lack of an international federation, which is a requirement for all Olympic events, prevented skateboarding’s entrance into the Olympics from becoming a reality.
There remains an extreme interest by the IOC to have skateboarding added as an event (mostly to increase Olympic interest from a younger demographic), so in all likelihood skateboarding will be part of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. At which time Shaun White will be just shy of 30 years-old. A lot of skateboarders, especially in vert (halfpipe), stay at the top of their game well into their 30’s. Tony Hawk landed his infamous 900 when he was 31 years old, and Bob Burnquist, at 33 years of age, remains one of the top vert skaters in the world. So the possibility of Shaun White earning a Gold medal in the Summer Olympics 84 years after Eagan’s amazing accomplishment remains a real, albeit distant, possibility.
It’s worth mentioning that Rick Reilly, formerly of Sports Illustrated and currently of Disney’s ESPN.com fame, entered a time machine of sorts to rehash and remember how to write an interesting and pertinent column. Besides ESPN.com’s poor choice of placing Reilly’s columns right next to the greatest sports writer currently alive, Bill Simmons, thus making his act nearly impossible to follow, Reilly as of late seems to have lost his touch. I can’t recall the last time one of Reilly’s columns incited genuine conversation among sports fans. Who knew that a story on board sports would bring Rick Reilly back into the stream of relevant discussion?