Image: White
Dylan Martinez  /  Reuters
After winning a gold medal in the Winter Olympics, Shaun White is spending the summer on his skateboard, competing in vert competitions — skateboarding’s version of the half-pipe — at events such as the Dew Action Sports Tour and the X-Games.
updated 8/3/2006 5:06:53 PM ET 2006-08-03T21:06:53

Ask Shaun White the moment when everything changed, when he realized he no longer would be known only as that snowboarding kid with the crazy red hair, and at first all you get is a drawn out “duuuude.”

“It’s just been crazy,” said the 19-year-old White, perhaps better known as “The Flying Tomato” for the way his auburn locks frame his face as he flips, twists and backside airs his way down the half-pipe.

There have been movie premieres and parties all over the globe for the Turin Olympics gold medalist. Stops on every talk show you can think of, and maybe a few you can’t. Companies asking him to put his name on this, or shoot a commercial with that.

But don’t hold your breath for a Shaun White bobblehead. He’s not a Bobblehead kind of guy.

Maybe, White said, the moment he knew things had changed happened a few days after the Olympics, when somebody told him President Bush had dropped his name during a speech.

Even for a laid-back kid from San Diego who wasn’t old enough to vote in the last presidential election, getting a shout-out from the president was pretty “gnarly.”

“I thought I was all big-time,” White said. “I was like, ‘No way.’ ”

Way.

White acknowledges the months since Turin have been a blur. At one point, he welcomed a couple of minor skateboarding injuries — just so he could relax.

“It was rad because I couldn’t skate at all,” he said. “It was nice just to go home and hang out with my family.”

Just not for too long. The road to success is littered with Olympic heroes whose 15 minutes quickly faded once the closing ceremony ended.

White’s goal is to maintain the momentum he gained in the Italian Alps. Now, with the phrase “Olympic Champion” permanently attached to his name, he’s ready for the next step in his career.

He is spending the summer on his skateboard, competing in vert competitions — skateboarding’s version of the half-pipe — at events such as the Dew Action Sports Tour and now the X-Games.

“I just want to focus on being the best skater and the best snowboarder in the world,” he said.

A skateboarder at heart, White knows it could take a while to regain the form he had before taking several months off late last year to train for the Olympics. Through two events on the Sports Tour, he stands fourth.

Not that White’s worried. He’s got time. He sees himself doing this for at least another 6-8 years, which is fine with Wade Martin, the general manager of the Sports Tour.

Martin said having White involved helps give the tour buzz beyond its typical target demographic of teenage boys and girls who have traded in their basketball shoes for a skateboard, helmet and knee pads.

“I think what Shaun did (in Turin) is going to help action sports immensely,” Martin said. “He is probably the face of action sports and the first face to the mainstream public since Tony Hawk, with the big difference by the time Tony became that mainstream face, he was done competing at the professional level.”

Martin isn’t the first person to compare White to Hawk, an icon in the skateboard world who helped action sports transform from something kids did in empty backyard pools into a cultural movement making inroads on more traditional team sports such as baseball and football.

White doesn’t mind the comparison — which goes beyond their ability to make a skateboard bend to their every whim.

Like Hawk, White is working on his own line of clothing. Like Hawk, White is developing a video game. And like Hawk, White’s crossover appeal is undeniable, though he says he’s not going to get too caught up in trying to match Hawk success for success.

“There’s pressure from other people to say I’m heading that way,” he said. “I want to become me, become who I am and do my thing.”

Which means maybe sticking around long enough to one day go for a couple of Summer Olympic gold medals to match the one he grabbed in Turin. There’s little chance of skateboarding making it to Beijing in 2008, but he’ll only be 25 when the 2012 Summer Games are held in London.

Given the sport’s rising profile and the International Olympic Committee’s eagerness to keep the Games up with the times, it’s not out of the question.

“I would definitely go for it,” he said. “It would be pretty amazing to get winter and summer medals. I don’t know too many people that have done that.”

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Video: Video: Shaun White on X-Games

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