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Road to Sochi/Shaun White

(News Senior Sports Columnist Jerry Sullivan is profiling U.S. athletes leading up to the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, which begin Feb. 7)

 

White, the best snowboarder in the world and perhaps the most famous athlete in the Games, will attempt a daunting double in Russia. He'll attempt to win a third consecutive gold medal in the halfpipe and also win the slopestyle event, which will be contested in the Olympics for the first time.

It's a tough assignment. Many of the other top snowboard competitors will limit themselves to one event or the other. White used to dominate slopestyle, which requires riders to negotiate a series of rail, jumps and boxes. He's a five-time gold slopestyle gold medalist in the Winter X Games. But he stopped competing in slopestyle to concentrate on halfpipe.

The slopestyle final is on Feb. 8, the first Saturday of competition. White will have face a tough field, led by Canadians Mark McMorris and Max Parrot, who won gold at the X Games last  month. White skipped the X Games to train privately. He had never missed an X Games; he medaled in every Winter X Games between 2002 and 2013.

Snowboard fans are eager to find out if White, 27, is still good enough to rise above the field. He has reinvented himself since Vancouver. He has shorn the long red locks, along with the nickname "The Flying Tomato." He has a more conservative look these days and has a rock band called "Bad Things." White plays guitar. The band's first album is scheduled to come out early next year.

White has a multitude of sponsors and has grown very wealthy through snowboarding. He has been featured on TV and in movies. He has an array of business interests, including cameras, drink makers and clothing. He still loves the sport, but says he has learned to be more judicious with his training on the board and more involved with physical conditioning.

But is he still the greatest snowboarder in the world, or is legion of rising stars going to take him down?

"This will be my third Olympics," White said last month. "So I know the drill about what goes on. But every single time around it's different. That's what's so exciting."

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