Rivals believe Shaun White is shown favoritism by judges
Shaun White is arguably Team USA’s most famous athlete competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and one of the biggest names in any sport attending the games.
At least one of his halfpipe rivals is worried that all of that unduly influences the judges.
White received a perfect 100 — an exceptionally rare feat — for his final run at last month’s U.S. Grand Prix of Snowmass in Colorado, a run that clinched another shot at the Olympics for him. However, one of his chief rivals believes that score was inflated, and that White’s status as a snowboarding icon leads to favoritism from judges.
“I have openly said [to the judges], this is not what you do,” awarding 100s, said Australian Scotty James, via Chico Harlan of the Washington Post. “Shaun, if he looked at that run, he would tell you that wasn’t a perfect 100.”
James may be White’s chief rival for the halfpipe gold, and he ended up in second place last month at White’s expense. He is concerned about the impartiality of those judges, many of whom will also judge the Olympic event.
“I feel like there have been times I was a bit shafted,” James said earlier in the week. “[In Colorado] I had question marks and had some words with the judges. Not because of getting second place — I am not a sore loser. I was just curious as to the 100.”
British snowboarder and 2014 Olympian Aimee Fuller concurred with James, saying earlier in the week that White’s reputation means he’s judged differently than his peers.
“Every [other] snowboarder starts from the bottom and they earn their points,” Fuller said. “Shaun starts at the top and they deduct his points, so unless he does anything particularly wrong, he’s staying at the top.”
White’s coach, J.J. Thomas, was not bothered by the critics.
“When we saw the 100, me and Shaun were like, oh, great,” Thomas said. “We were like, oh, here we go, people are going to be hounding us, dude. Saying, ‘no such thing as 100.'”
White has reached a sort of cultural ubiquity, and we got another reminder of that this week upon his arrival in PyeongChang. It sounds like all eyes in the snowboarding community will be on the judges when the halfpipe competition kicks off this week.