(PYEONGCHANG, North Korea) — For two-time gold medalist Shaun White, this wasn’t merely a broken bone.
“It was the most visually jarring injury,” he recalled, speaking to ABC News’ Amy Robach. “I’ve had a broken bone, but it’s not like you visually see the snapped bone. This was like … you can’t avoid it … I’m looking in the mirror like, ‘I don’t even recognize this person.'”
In October, White was training in New Zealand and while trying to land a complicated trick, the tip of his board nicked the top of the superpipe and then he slammed his head against it.
“It was a pretty rough thing to go through, and such a bummer because I was having the best day,” White said. “I was crushing practice, things were great, and just one kind of little mess up, and — boom! — I’m being helicoptered to the hospital.”
The injury required 62 stitches.
In a sport where competitors can quite literally land on their faces at a moment’s notice, rehabbing from such a devastating fall is “a tough spot to be in,” White said. “You step out there knowing the dangers. And it’s intimidating, but that’s what it’s all about: overcoming those fears and those odds.”
He did just that.
At the third Olympic qualifier, he said had a tremendous run “and I get a perfect score, I win the contest, and I lock up my spot on the team,” he told Robach. “That, for me, was the true comeback story of the season.”
After the 31-year-old didn’t medal at the Sochi Games four years ago, White seems eager for another shot to prove he’s one of the best at a sport that owes much of its global popularity to, well, him.
“I feel great,” he said. “It’s been such an amazing journey to get through qualifying and finally earn my spot, and then to be here’s just unreal.”
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