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Shaun White's lasting legacy is greater than Olympic gold

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 11: Shaun White of the United States congratulates gold medalist Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland after the Snowboard Men's Halfpipe Finals on day four of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The media that once celebrated a young, flame-haired Shaun White seems to have turned on him after a disappointing turn on the slopes of Sochi, placing 4th. The former Flying Tomato, darling of Olympic games past in Turino and Vancouver received an undeserved media smackdown. The Los Angeles times called him "Off White" in their headline. The new buzzwords for White are "failed" and "missed".

Yahoo Sports cruelly declared, "Almost no one likes Shaun White anymore," casting White as the snowboarding heel of Sochi, a corporate-sponsored monster who deserved to be taken down. That his much lower scoring teammates openly scorned him shows outrageously poor sportsmanship. Others declared he missed his opportunity to become a legend.

But, Shaun White already is a legend in the sport, even without a third gold medal. The Olympics aren't the only place where the two-time halfpipe Olympic gold medalist has made his mark. His snowboarding dominance extends to the X Games, where he holds the record for the most gold medals in halfpipe, superpipe, and slopestyle events. He even participates and wins for skateboarding at the summer X Games. He's won 10 ESPN Espy awards. Who can say that? Almost no one. And no one ought to strip those accolades just for Sochi.

In fact, White achieved the highest score of the day as his qualifying halfpipe run, a 95.75; but it was in the first heat of the day. Iouri Podladtchikov scored a 94.75, one point less than White's earlier better score, to win the final at the Olympics - where anything can happen and just about anything does. Other favored athletes fell short, but were universally credited with being gracious sportsmen who understood the spirit of the Games.

Many sports writers stated that the medalists were "rivals" with White, but nothing could be further from the truth. There was nothing but respect, hugs, and congratulations. When interviewed by NBC, the Russian-born Podladtchikov spoke not of his own accomplishment, but of White. He wanted to celebrate with White, and seemed to feel bad about beating him as if he had just bested the older brother who he deeply admired.

Two children attended the halfpipe event courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation to see Shaun White. While the same Yahoo Sports article criticized White for not knowing their names, The Washington Post told the true tale. The Make-A-Wish Foundation had not even requested that White meet the children. It was unexpected that he would jump a security-guarded boundary to meet them, but White did.

White's reality differs greatly from perception, as Fast Company found in a 2009 interview with White. Rather than sell his soul for corporate sponsorships, he picked only those companies he connected to on a personal level. He and his brother designed an affordable streetwear line for skaterats, which the public sees at Target. He designs higher end wear for Burton.

And lately, White re-imagines himself as a rock 'n' roller, minus the gorgeous, long red hair. He appeared at Lollapalooza in 2013 with his band Bad Things. Their self-titled debut album was released on February 21 of this year on Warner Brothers. The band is made up of White's long-term friends and White plays guitar. Please check out Bad Things and think good thoughts about White while the fickle media attempts to shred his reputation.

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