Shaun White stepping up preparations in Olympic skateboard bid
Shaun White has an uphill battle on his hands.
But with the skateboard qualifying window for Tokyo 2020 opening in May 2019, the American is preparing to up the ante for another shot at Olympic gold.
White announced his sport swap to skateboard in July 2018.
The three-time Olympic snowboard champion has been focused solely on the event ever since.
While the task presents several challenges, the 32-year-old has made it clear that skateboarding's Olympic debut is a big motivator for him.
Just look at White's social media to see countless videos and images of him training and practicing.
The first hurdle for Shaun White: No Vert
The American has a long and successful history in halfpipe skateboarding events, winning multiple contests, including two X-Games titles.
This type of skating is known as ''vert'', and is not one of the two disciplines to be contested at the Olympics in Tokyo. Only ''park'' and ''street'' will be contested.
White has transitioned to ''park'' skating, which takes place in a hollowed-out bowl course. Skaters ride the complicated curves and dome dishes, whilst also getting high into the air.
In September 2018, White competed at a bowl event in France, but it didn't go to plan.
“It was bad. I had really a poor performance and I’m very happy that happened because now I know where to be, where the level of the young skateboarders is at and I’m hoping to take that loss as a motivator to now get to that place and hopefully start winning.” - Shaun White to the US Olympic committee.
Qualification for Tokyo 2020
In March 2019, USA Skateboarding named a national skateboarding team.
White's name was not on the list.
Despite causing some confusion, the national team is not the US Olympic team which will be chosen on qualification results.
In total, 80 athletes will compete in skateboarding at Tokyo 2020.
There will be 20 males and 20 females in each of the park and street categories.
As Olympic hosts, Japan gains one automatic entry per event.
The top three male and top three female skaters at the World Skateboarding Championships in 2020 will also qualify.
The remaining spots will be determined over the course of the 2019–20 qualifying period, based on the top-16 rankings.
The qualifying period starts on 26th May 2019, with the first competition of the 2019 World Skate/SLS World Tour.
The Dew Tour takes place in California from 13-16 June, and is another Olympic qualifying competition, but White isn't on the current list of invited athletes.
Can skating prolong his snowboarding career?
In January, the American was on “The Tony Robbins Podcast” and said Olympic skateboarding could also help him stay motivated for snowboarding at another Winter Olympics.
“After I’m done skating, I’m gonna hate skating, I’m gonna wanna go snowboarding,” - Shaun White to Tony Robbins
“Sitting here right now, you couldn’t drag me to the mountain. But after two whole years of skateboarding, I’m gonna be ready to go back, and I’m gonna have this fire that those other competitors won’t, because they’ve been in the same thing every day trying to find that passion to keep them going, and it’s tough,” White said.
White also told the motivational speaker that it was on the way to the PyeongChang 2018 medal ceremony when he decided he would try to chase a spot on Team USA's Olympic skate team.
Redemption on wheels for White's big rival
White isn't the only one making the switch.
The Japanese star has already posted some impressive results, coming third at the Japan Open in March.
The 20-year-old wants a re-match with White, who has denied him Olympic gold twice.
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Hirano is also looking to make history once again.
He became Japan's youngest Winter Olympic medallist at 15 years old when he claimed Sochi 2014 halfpipe silver.
If he qualifies for Tokyo, he could go on to be first athlete from his country to compete in both snowboarding and skateboarding Olympic events.