TV Shows

Recensie HBO Max-series ‘Shaun White: The Last Run’

A legend in the sport of snowboarding honestly reflects on his shortcomings, but of course the show cannot be missing.

Director: Christina Clusiau in Shaun Schwarz | Episodes: 4 | Time to play: 53-64 minutes | Year: 2023

A world famous snowboarder says goodbye by competing in the Winter Olympics for the fifth and final time. Shaun White: The Last Race it tends towards cheap hero worship at times, but luckily the creators aren’t blinded by the visual spectacle of the half-pipe. The miniseries shows how a legend in the sport sees his own profession continue to evolve and finally realizes that he has really lost his connection for a while.

Archival footage proves Shaun White already wanted to become a snowboarder at the age of ten, and the sequel is here: The ‘Tony Hawk of the sport of snowboarding’ represented the United States at the Winter Games between 2006 and 2022, winning gold a total of three times. For years he was known as the undisputed king of the halfpipe.

It’s hard to get to the top, but this miniseries underscores once again that it’s often harder to stay there. Ahead of the 2014 Games, White is already struggling to perfect the so-called “triple cork” (a diagonally rotating triple jump), a decisive jump that helps his competitors start to catch up. During the Olympic edition in question, the earring style is also introduced, a new medal component that is significantly less suitable for White than the trusty half-pipe.

White’s candid musings on the cost of change—new developments in the sport, new competitors, aging bodies—present a beautiful paradox: Sometimes it’s the greatest champions who hit themselves the hardest. The title pretty much says it all, but Shaun White: The Last Race finally he leaves out the first highlights to show the sporting reality of White’s fragile final feat.

However, there is also something wrong with the design of the episodes. Not only does the overall lack of structure (there are unnecessary timeline changes and White’s partner, actress Nina Dobrev, shows up out of nowhere in the last episode), the flashy direction also doesn’t always match the content that puts things into perspective. The miniseries is about doubt and decay, but at the same time it is clear that the filmmakers also want to convey the spectacle of sport.

The latter offers an understandable, but moderately balanced mix of lyricism and sobriety. Due to the bland editing style and soulful musical additions typical of many contemporary sports documentaries, the interviews have little room to breathe. The half-pipe’s high-contrast, shaded color animations go hand-in-hand with washed-out training footage of a nasty crash.

Shaun White: The Last Race is such an intriguing project of contradictions: the episodes underline once again that the halfpipe guarantees the show, but also show how much the call for the perfect course can demand of a top athlete. “I lost, and I was so happy afterwards,” White realizes when she recalls a failed Olympic final. No doubt more star athletes will think this way, but how many of them dare to say it?


Shaun White: The Last Race can be seen in hbo max.

Ritika Prasher

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