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 looking to the future.
The American will be 35 by the time the next Winter Olympics is held in Beijing in 2022 but his focus is on a closer 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 belief that he can challenge the world’s best skateboarders in Tokyo is not as outlandish as it might sound at first.
As his snowboarding career was taking off, White was also competing as a professional skateboarder, winning Vert gold at the 2007 X Games, 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.
“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.”
If White wins a skateboarding medal in Tokyo, he would become only the sixth person to claim medals at both winter and summer Games. The most recent athlete to do so was American Lauryn Williams, in sprinting and bobsleigh.
White will be able to rely on his long-time friend and mentor Tony Hawk for encouragement.
Hawk, widely regarded as the greatest skateboarder in history and a pioneer for many of the tricks in the sport, first met White when he was nine years old.
“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.”
Hawk warned that White would have to completely change his style to successfully compete in Tokyo.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for skateboarding to be seen by a worldwide audience and I think people will be very surprised to see teams from the most unlikely countries,” said Hawk in an email to Reuters.
“Perhaps if Vert was one of the disciplines (White could compete), but he would have to completely change his style in order to compete in park or street. So it’s not likely, but he’s welcome to try.”
Whatever White decides to do it would take a brave person to bet against an athlete whose competitive fire runs deeper than most.
Reporting by Jack Tarrant, editing by Ed Osmond