To the public he's a carefree, red-maned mop-top once charmingly, and harmlessly, nicknamed the Flying Tomato. But on the mountain, U.S. halfpipe king Shaun White turns into someone else entirely: "In the moments before he drops into the pipe," wrote SI's Austin Murphy, "White becomes something much more cold-blooded: one of those rare champions put on earth to take the clutch shot." Just 23, White has dominated his sport for years but was in danger of being surpassed by a new generation of boarders who'd developed the daring, off-axis flips known as corks. So after losing to fellow American Danny Davis in a Grand Prix event in January, White traveled to Park City, Utah, to raise his game; he emerged having fully refined the Double McTwist 1260, a double-flip, 3½-spin maneuver that is the most difficult and dangerous halfpipe move ever attempted. As it turned out, White didn't need it in the final at Cypress Mountain, as his fairly conservative first run earned enough points for gold. And yet he threw it down anyway in his second, victory-lap run, a mind-blowing 48.4-point performance that reestablished him as the unquestioned master. Why attempt a risky trick when there was nothing at stake? "I came all the way to Vancouver to do something amazing," White said. Mission accomplished.