What Makes Shaun White Great?

Ultimate effort, every time.

Shaun White is the world’s #1 action sports star. He dominates both the Winter AND Summer X-Games. He earns over $9 million per year. He has consistently won everywhere he’s competed, even the Winter Olympics!

What makes him so special?There are tens of thousands of young incredibly talented athletes competing in these events. Not only popular in North America, these sports are popular world wide. At competitions it’s normal to find top competitors from every continent, all over Europe, Japan, Korea, Australia…you name it. In spite of this, if there is a big event, anywhere, more likely than not, Shaun White walks away with the Gold.

We just met him at breakfast at the Little Nell in Aspen
You could tell he was a fun guy, enjoying life, even though he was frustrated and nursing a bad ankle at the time. When we talked I told him I appreciated him being such a good role model for the young kids and he was grateful for the compliment since he agreed it is important to set a great example for the upcoming generation. It was clearly an obligation he took seriously, since it’s well known he does tons of volunteer work with charitable foundations. (Check out Shaun White’s personal website)

But that’s not what makes him great
Lots of young people have great values, work hard and donate their time to those less fortunate. Lots of have great personalities. You can’t discover who the special ones are by just talking to them, you have to see them in action. You have to see how they perform over a period of time, in a variety of situations. You have to see how they perform in pressure situations. That’s when the Greatness comes out.

We saw it at the Olympics
At the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics he was competing on the his snowboard in the half-pipe competition. It was a nervous time for him because his reputation was on the line. He had been on top for a long time and his competition was catching up. He knew he was vulnerable.

So he did what champions do. He went into intensive training. He cancelled a lot of his outside obligations. He started to work on new tricks, ones that would keep him ahead of the game, keep him on top. The trick he came up with seemed impossible. I won’t even try to describe it except to say he named it the 1260 Double McTwist.

Going into the Olympics there was lots of anticipation. Would he do it? Could he pull it off? Was it worth the gamble? Strategy dictates that you only pull out your biggest, toughest trick at then end of competition, probably on your last run, when you absolutely need it to win.

As it turned out, by the time his last run came he already had enough points to win. He could just coast down in a victory lap and wave at the crowd, saving his big trick for another day. But that’s not who Shaun is. He knew the crowd had come to not only see him compete, but to see the exciting new trick! Also he had worked hard to master it and he wanted to do it. He didn’t want to disappoint the crowd, he didn’t want to disappoint himself. So he talked with his coach and decided to go for it.

His coach told him “If you are going to do it, DO IT, give it all you have”! So he did and pulled it off – the first time anyone had ever done anything like it—the crowd went wild! It didn’t matter that it was unnecessary for scoring, what was necessary was for him to give it everything he had and to hold nothing back. That’s what he did and that’s what makes him Great.

We just saw the same thing this weekend in Aspen at the 2012 X-Games
He injured his ankle Thursday and re-injured his ankle Friday. He had to withdraw from the slope side competition on Saturday. He was crushed. There was a lot of doubt that he could compete in his signature event, the half-pipe, on Sunday. He had to rest up and hope for the best. We were surprised how definite he was when he told us Saturday morning he would be ready on Sunday. That was his moment and he wasn’t going to be denied.

On Sunday warm-ups he was his usual spectacular self. In fact he was so smooth and strong that he locked up first place just doing the same runs he had done the year before, scoring a fantastic 94 out of a possible 100 points. Once again he didn’t even need to show his best stuff. He had won! But there was one run left. 

The crowd and the announcers wondered what he would do. His ankle was injured. He was the star. He had nothing to prove. What would he decide to do on his last run?

The answer came fast. He jumped in and “threw down” what the announcers said was the greatest run anyone had done in history. Everyone wondered how the judges would react, would they appreciate it and improve on his already huge score or not. The verdict soon came, his score 100! The first perfect score in history! Shaun was ecstatic! The crowd was ecstatic! And for sure ESPN and all his sponsors were ecstatic! He had delivered once again above and beyond what anyone could have reasonably expected.

Once again he showed what makes him the best…

He ALWAYS gives his ultimate best effort, EVERY time, he just can’t hold back!

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