A two-time Olympic champion will be in the NBC broadcast booth commentating on gymnastics during the women's individual all-around final Thursday. Not much of a surprise there. But this athlete, known for inventing some of the most difficult and dangerous flip combinations in his sport, has never set foot in a gymnastics arena.
"I'm hoping to keep it light and funny," said two-time snowboard halfpipe gold medalist Shaun White on Monday afternoon, a day after arriving in London to attend his first summer Olympics.
"I know what it's like to put a run together, or a routine, and how to deal with the pressure of competing and shaking it off if something goes wrong," White said. "We compete in such different sports, but we all have so much in common."
White is taking the summer off from snowboarding and competitive skateboarding to heal a nagging knee injury -- he plans to have arthroscopic knee surgery when he returns home -- and had planned to attend the Games as a spectator and ambassador for his sponsor, Target, with whom he is celebrating a 10-year anniversary here in London.
"I'm hoping to see some bands and visit some of my favorite venues," said White, a huge music fan who also plays guitar. "London is the birthplace of British rock and roll. Zeppelin, The Who, Eric Clapton, everybody came from here. It's going to be a good time."
When he found out what sports he'd be commentating, White did a bit of research but also wants to keep his reporting spontaneous and allow himself the opportunity to learn from the athletes he's covering. "I'd want somebody to know a thing or two about my sport before trying to talk to me about it, but I also know part of the entertainment is that I don't know a lot about these sports," White said. "I'll learn how the scoring in gymnastics works from a former Olympian or someone who's currently competing, and viewers will learn with me. I want to be prepared, but I also want it to be spontaneous."