WEST VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- "Did you like the trick?" Shaun White asked. "I've been working kind of hard on it, guys!"
Yes, Shaun, we absolutely loved it.
Most of all, we loved your wild sense of adventure, your brazen chutzpah, that drove you to pull it off on the biggest stage there is, the Olympics.
He could have just taken the medal. But that wouldn't have been enough. He insisted on giving everyone a show, too.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Ledger-Enquirer
But that's snowboarding, right? Why be satisfied with the ordinary when the extraordinary is there for the taking? Moreso in this sport than perhaps any other, who dares, wins.
White dared and won far more than just a medal. He won Olympic immortality.
White's "Tomahawk" is now a part of Olympic lore forever. Up there with Usain Bolt firing imaginary arrows skyward after rewriting the sprint records in Beijing, or Nadia Comaneci's perfect 10.
Named after a 30-ounce steak that White once gobbled up with the same voracious appetite he has for testing limits, it's the craziest move ever seen on a snowboard, or pretty much anywhere.
And, most importantly to him, it's 100 percent pure White.
Sure, he was thrilled with the Olympic gold. He can hang it next to the other one he got four years ago in Turin.
"I don't think you can be too bummed with gold," he said.
But pulling off the move that only he can do, that he poured blood, sweat and tears into to perfect, well, that was really special, perhaps even more so than the medal itself.
And that's OK.
No disrespect to the Olympics, but snowboard has never been just about trophies. It's a sport of self-expression, of rebellion. It's saying, "My name is Shaun White. I invented that crazy stunt. I uncorked it at the Olympics, and because of that, people will talk about me and remember my name for generations."
Name a cross-country skier. Or a curler.
But a snowboarder? Well, White's made that easy for us --- even for those who only tune into snowboarding every four years.
"It was probably one of the most important things in the whole Olympics for him," his dad, Roger, said after his son climbed onto the winner's podium. "The advancement of the sport, that meant more to him, probably, than medaling."
The biggest champions in sports don't play it safe. They don't settle for second best. They take risks. They blaze trails.
And they feel a responsibility to their sport, the need to give something back.
Evgeni Plushenko is doing that for figure skating, coming out of retirement to land quads at the Vancouver games, because, he says, the sport needs the gravity-challenging spins for it to advance.ad_icon
"The quad is necessary, that is my opinion," Plushenko said after he was the only contender to land one in the short program. "Some people might say that we should do other things, but in my opinion, not doing the quad will be going backwards in time."
White is pushing snowboarding to the next level. A level that, for the moment, he has all to himself.
Now that White has laid down the marker, the others will try to catch up.
Some will get hurt doing so. The severe head injury that Kevin Pearce suffered while practicing the double cork - the move that prompted White to invent his even harder "Tomahawk" - is a stark reminder of the risks these athletes are taking.
Within the sport, they're already asking themselves if the limits are being reached.
That's for them to decide. After all, they're the ones doing these stunts and snowboarders have always been a breed who take pride in listening to no one but themselves.
They'll either catch up with White or not.
And, by then, he'll likely have moved on.
John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org.