Shaun White Has Board, Will Travel

Grounded since reaching new heights in February at the Olympic Games, the Flying Tomato is set to soar again.

But this time, Shaun White will be performing a different sort of aerial acrobatics, swapping his one-of-a-kind maneuvers on a snowboard for some extreme trick-making on a skateboard.

White is in Los Angeles this week to compete in the Skateboard Vert Best Trick event at X Games 12. Airing Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 3-6, on ESPN and ABC, the Games are the latest gathering of a new generation of sports heroes who have helped usher once-outlaw activities into the mainstream.

Few "X" athletes have become as popular as White, the affable, Led Zeppelin-loving 19-year-old whose gold medal-winning performance in halfpipe was one of the highlights for the Americans in Turin, Italy. Since then, his life has been a whirlwind, hopping from plane to plane to make various talk show and promotional appearances while trying to ready himself for what he hopes will be his first skateboarding victory at the X Games (he won silver last year). From his parents' home in Carlsbad, Calif., White recently found time to discuss, well, Shaun White: the athlete, the nickname, the future, and whom he most enjoyed meeting at the Olympics.

Zap2it: After all the hype and expectations surrounding you before the Olympics, how did it feel when you actually received your medal?

Shaun White: It was a trip. I can picture it fully in my mind right now. You know what the funniest part was? There was kind of this buildup where I had some dreams about the Olympics before I even went, and honestly, the vision of what it was going to be like getting the award, that's exactly what it was like. My whole family was sitting there in the front row; it's just this sea of people, and they had just called the third-place guy, then the second, and I'm still standing there waiting to get on the podium, and it just freaked me out. Then right when they put the medal around your neck, it's like, "Ahhhh, this is something else."

Zap2it: Did you know you had the gold medal won after you nailed your final run?

White: I didn't know how it was going to work out. The only thing I knew was that I was really confident on my run and that before the Olympics, everybody was like, "You got it, you got it, you're gonna get it, you're gonna get it." Instead of letting that psych me out, I just used it as encouragement, and then I got there and I was like, "OK, if I just do my run I've got a great shot at getting the medal. Then after my run I saw my score, and it was the highest score of the day.

Zap2it: Has the experience changed your life?

White: Definitely, yeah. I think for the better just because things were pretty amazing before. I had this growing fame, and opportunities were coming to me, and I think every athlete in their career always wants to get kicked up to a certain level where they can really start to feel like they're making it in their sport and feeling the real thing, and I finally felt like the Olympics really gave it that extra kick up to where the opportunities that have come and so many things are happening.

Zap2it: Where's the medal now?

White: Just stashed in the closet. I haven't found a spot for it. I'm actually in the process of moving out -- I'm moving out on my own -- so I have to find a cool spot for it.

Zap2it: Any cool tricks planned for the X Games?

White: Oh, man. It's not so much just one trick but the whole run that I'm trying to achieve. It's been a rough start for me because all this Olympic stuff; it hasn't stopped yet. I mean, I was just in New York and I went on the Conan O'Brien show and the "Today" show, "TRL" and some other stuff. So things haven't really slowed down, so it's really hard to kind of break away from that and just get time to skateboard and get better. But I'm learning some new stuff, and hopefully by X Games I'll be on it, and then the big one is if I can land that 1080 this time.

Zap2it: You've said you're not crazy about your latest nickname, the Flying Tomato. Has anyone ever come up with one you like?

White: Not yet. We gotta get on that. Either way, it's all fun and games. I don't really hate it, I don't really, you know ... it's not my favorite, but whatever. We'll get a new one and I'll be like, "Yeah!" Third one's the charm, I bet.

Zap2it: A big deal was made of you saying at the Olympics you'd love to meet Sasha Cohen. Any regrets?

White: You know, I've learned now from like a media standpoint is to definitely kind of watch what you're joking around about. You know, they're like, "What's up with the other Olympians? Who do you want to hang out with? What do you want to do?" I'm like, "This girl seems cool, that guy seems cool." Then Bob [Costas] starts talking about it, and once that happened, everyone else started asking about it, but I met her; she's supercool. I think the coolest person I met was Michelle Kwan. She was supernice, supernormal, you know what I mean? She's just like, 'So, what's up?' She was definitely my favorite.

Zap2it: You're the most successful snowboarder in the history of the sport. Where do you go from here?

White: Hopefully, even higher. I'm working on a video game right now and all these things. I don't know ... I feel so confident with my skating and snowboarding now that I'm able to actually pursue skateboarding and trying to be the best in that as well as snow.