- Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
- The US snowboarder Shaun White won the half-pipe competition at the Winter Olympics on Wednesday to secure his third Olympic gold medal.
- Snowboarding competitors have previously said they don’t like White.
- Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Tom Brady are examples of dominant professional athletes also said to be ruthlessly competitive.
The US snowboarder Shaun White captured his third Olympic gold medal in a dramatic final run of the half-pipe on Wednesday at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
For White, the win was one of redemption after crashing in the 2014 Olympics and missing the podium. But it remains to be seen what his competitors in the snowboarding community, many of whom have previously expressed disdain for White, think of his win.
“The whole snowboarding community doesn’t really like Shaun,” Brandon Davis, an American snowboarder, told Time in 2014. “He’s apart from everyone. He’s the lone wolf.”
It’s not an invented perception – White has said he intentionally stays away from other competitors.
“I didn’t really enjoy riding with the other riders because it was like, they’re my direct competition,” White said earlier this month, according to The Washington Post.
That has at times put him at odds with the tight-knit snowboarding community, which often embraces a laid-back attitude about competition. But his fierce competitiveness is pretty common among athletes regarded as the best in their sport.
Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, considered two of the best to have ever played basketball, are also known to be ruthlessly competitive. Even when Jordan was being lauded for his basketball genius, he made a point to revisit past slights, famously calling out his detractors in his Hall of Fame speech in 2009.
Despite being at the top of his game, Bryant has not always been beloved by others. He once told Jerry West, the general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, “My teammates hate me.”
And Tom Brady, widely regarded as the best quarterback in the history of professional football, has reportedly caused a fracture in the New England Patriots related to his use of a personal trainer rather than the team’s staff.
While competitiveness can cause rifts among teammates and opponents, it often endears fans who see these athletes as “clutch.” They possess the self-assuredness to take the last shot, throw the Hail Mary pass, or, in White’s case, make a nearly perfect final run to bring home the gold.
And even some of White’s detractors say the negative feelings have thawed a bit since 2014.
“I’m sure people have valid reasons for liking him and valid reasons for not liking him,” Gus Kenworthy, a US skier, told The Post. “But it’s always easy to not like the guy who’s winning. I definitely think he’s less polarizing now.”
Maybe it’s not so lonely at the top.