February 6, 2022

6 Heartwarming Stories in Olympic Snowboarding that have Nothing to do with Shaun White.


Almost everyone is talking about Shaun White these days, but I feel there are six stories of snowboarders at the Olympics who deserve more attention.

Nothing against Shaun White. He is a legend. He is the most well-known snowboarder of all time. But if you ask anyone involved in competitive snowboarding, you might find folks who think that he is overrated. I am one of them.

There is no doubt that White is an incredible athlete, but there are many who feel that his lone wolf approach is not what snowboarding is all about. It’s a one-man show, and I am not a fan of that.

I am not sure if it was necessary to give him a wildcard enabling him to participate in these games without officially qualifying. But he wanted to compete one last time, and we will see what happens.

If he wins, I will take back everything I said, but I would have rather seen a young talent than a 35-year-old man.

Here are six heartwarming stories that have nothing to do with Shaun White:

1. Ayumu Hirano 

All fans of Shaun White already know this dude. He took the silver medal four and eight years ago, and he is only 24.

Besides that, Hirano is one of the few competitors in Olympic history who participated in the summer and winter Olympics. In Tokyo, he was able to qualify for the skateboarding event. Some of you might remember the Japanese dominance at the games in their home country.

This dude spent the last 10 years in professional snowboarding and is known as a humble athlete who is more than likely to dominate halfpipe competitions for the next decade.

But as his dad always says, “Personality comes first. The most essential is the most important.”

2. Annika Morgan and the German team

“Our goal is to get one rider into the final competitions in 2022,” said a friend of mine, who works for the German Snowboard team, 10 years ago.

They started working with young talents and believed in their mission—and succeeded.

Annika Morgan is one of these talents. Being the younger sister of German snowboard legend Ethan Morgan, she managed to outperform her big brother by making it into the Olympic finals. And she is only 20—I am pretty sure she will make the podium next time. Good luck, Annika!

She is also going to compete in the Big Air event and already said, “I think that is going to be fun.”

I hope she will have fun, and I am sure her coaching team is already more than proud of her—and I am proud of them.

3. Mark McMorris

He was the top dude at the 2014 games in Sochi. Almost every expert was sure that he would win. He was dominating the sport at that time. But then he crashed during a practice run and fractured a rib—and took the bronze medal.

Before the 2018 games, he almost died in a snowboarding accident and recovered just in time for the Olympics, and took another bronze medal.

So, I am pretty sure he is quite motivated to finally win a gold medal. And it would be more than well-deserved, in my opinion.

4. Chloe Kim

She was on the cover of Sports Illustrated after winning a gold medal in 2018. She was featured alongside Serena Williams and Simone Biles in advertisements for Nike. And she was included in the Times list of the most influential people in 2018.

At the age of 22, Kim is already a legend. She is the top-favorite to take another gold medal.

As an athlete with a binational background, she is an inspiration to young athletes in both of her home countries. Or, as she said after the 2018 Olympics, “I have this different opportunity because I’m Korean-American, but I’m riding for the States…I’m starting to understand that I can represent both countries.”

5. The Chinese team

To be honest, I don’t know much about this team. China is not known to be a snowboarding nation. But it seems that they take things to the next level in their training facilities.

I woke up this morning to check the results of the men’s slopestyle qualification and found out that Chinese rider Su Yiming took the top spot. Saying that I was shocked would be an understatement.

I knew that he made the podium for the first time this season, but I didn’t have this dude on my list. Let’s see if he can keep up with McMorris and other well-established riders in the finals. I wish him the best of luck.

6. Anna Gasser and Clemens Millauer

Maybe it’s because I am European, but these two are my favorite sweethearts in snowboarding right now.

Gasser didn’t make the podium in slopestyle last night, but she still has another shot at the Big Air competition that she won in 2018. Her partner, Millauer, didn’t even make it to the men’s finals but will also compete in Big Air next week.

I highly recommend watching the recently released documentary about Gasser and her unusual way of becoming a snowboarding legend.

She won her first competition only four years after learning how to snowboard. She used to be a gymnast but decided to try something new—and became Austria’s athlete of the year in 2018. What a story.

Millauer himself is not one even close to having a chance of making the podium (sorry, Clemens!), but he is more than supportive. If Gasser defends her gold medal in Big Air, Millauer will be the happiest boyfriend on the planet.

And all of this happens a few months after the tragic death of Marco Grilc. The popular snowboarder, who was also close to the couple, died in November 2021 in an accident.

Any medal won by Gasser, Millauer, or any other European rider is a medal for Marco. Rest in peace, bro!

I wish the best of luck to all these athletes, including Mr. White. Let’s hope that there won’t be too much wind and nobody gets injured.

And if you think that we should boycott the games instead of supporting these amazing athletes, stay tuned for the article I am going to write tomorrow.


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