A week after Pearce was hospitalized, Davis went head-to-head with White at the Grand Prix Olympic Qualifier at Mammoth. Davis's final run featured a trio of double-corked moves, ending with a switch double-back rodeo "that blew people's minds," says U.S. snowboarding coach Mike Jankowski. "As it should have."
Stunned by his defeat, White scratched a planned three-day vacation and headed for Park City. "And the next day," he recalls, "I learned the trick."
"The trick" is his magnum opus (to date), the double McTwist 1260, a.k.a. the Tomahawk, named for a sensational steak White once ate at an Aspen restaurant. He describes the double-flip, three-and-a-half-spin maneuver as the most difficult and dangerous he's ever attempted. "It's my friend and my enemy," he says. "I show up one day, feel great and can put it down anytime I want. Another day I show up, and I can't even attempt it."
While wrestling with the Tomahawk, White learned that Davis had removed himself from Olympic contention after crashing an ATV into a closed gate early in the morning of Jan. 17. Davis suffered a fractured pelvis and L3 vertebra. While he is expected to make a complete recovery, he's on the shelf for the rest of this season.
While it firmed up nicely in time for the competition, the rain-soaked halfpipe was a mess leading up to the Games. Two days before the men's event, its flatbottom contained so much slush and crud that it turned into a kind of mogul field. "I've been with Shaun every day he's boarded this season," says Gabe L'Heureux, his Burton team manager. "I've never been more impressed with him than on that day. Three times he did his full run, including the Tomahawk, despite having to basically ollie through the flatbottom."
Finally, White felt ready to throw the Tomahawk in competition. Naturally, he didn't need it. With name riders pratfalling left and right, White's deliberately conservative first run, which earned him a 46.8, held up for the gold.
But he still had another run to take. Up at the top, his personal coach, Bud Keene, urged him to take a victory lap—"Some slashes and sprays and stuff," said White. "But I came all the way to Vancouver to do something amazing."
"Don't do it unless you're going to stomp it," warned Keene.
The Animal stomped it, throwing down an epic run—it was scored 48.4—capped by the show-stopping Tomahawk.
"He'd worked so hard on that trick," says Adam Moran, Burton's global team manager. "He had to put it down for his own sanity. Otherwise, all he'd be talking about for the next six months would be, 'Why didn't I do it?'"