Shaun White goes for the gold — twice — in Sochi 

click to enlarge Shaun White
  • AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick, File
  • In this Feb. 17, 2010, file photo, Shaun White, of the United States, celebrates his gold medal in the men's snowboard halfpipe finals at Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver, Brtish Columbia, at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games.
The question hovers over Shaun White — not so much the way a black cloud might linger but more like a whiff of smoke he casually can bat away.

What if he’s not good enough?

Instead of avoiding those sort of conundrums, the world’s best snowboarder pursues them.

— On the halfpipe, where he spent the better part of a year trying a trick he couldn’t master but nonetheless emerged a favorite for a third straight Olympic gold.

— On the slopestyle course, where he eagerly took up the challenge presented by the Olympic overlords, who gave him a chance to win not one, but two, gold medals in Sochi.

— Even on the concert stage — with a guitar in his hand — where White and his band will soon tour the country to promote their newly released album.

Much as they watch him do tricks on the mountain, fans will come to listen to the superstar play and see if he can make it as a rocker. Part of the thrill is knowing there’s at least a chance that he cannot.

“I like it. I like the fact that these things are there,” the 27-year-old action sports icon tells The Associated Press.

White heads to Sochi as arguably the most famous athlete competing: “It’s going to push me to do things I never would’ve done before,” he says.

White concedes there’s more at stake this time — that he’s had to grow up since the last time he hit the grand stage, in Vancouver four years ago.

Back then, he had the gold medal wrapped up with one run left — the so-called victory lap that meant nothing. White used it to stomp his biggest trick, the Double McTwist 1260. It was one of the most electric moments of the Olympics: Totally unnecessary as far as the scoreboard went. But an absolute necessity as far as he was concerned.

He skipped the Winter X Games, where he would have gotten the best look at his main competition and they could’ve seen him.

Instead, he trained privately, his eye fixed squarely on Sochi and the goal ahead: Two gold medals.

Improbable, some might say.

But a challenge the world’s best snowboarder wouldn’t think of shying away from.

“I’ve never really lowered my sights from that,” White says. “It’s driven me this far. At any competition, it’s a risk you take that you might not win it, that someone might be better than you. But when you get into this, you know you’re putting yourself up for that from the very beginning.”

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