Shaun White returns to competition

— -- ASPEN, Colorado -- After weeks of speculation, Shaun White confirmed Wednesday during a press conference that he will return to snowboarding competition Thursday night at X Games Aspen. It will be White's first halfpipe event since he finished fourth in Sochi, Russia, last February while trying to win his third straight Olympic gold medal.

White, an eight-time Snowboard SuperPipe champion, arrived in Aspen earlier this week but had not confirmed whether he would take part in Thursday's competition. Last year, three weeks before the Olympics, White practiced in Aspen but pulled out of the X Games at the last minute to save his body for Russia.

When asked at the outset of Wednesday afternoon's press conference if he would, in fact, compete this year, he put his hand to his ear. "Come again? Come again?" he deadpanned.

Then the rider who has not lost in the Buttermilk Mountain pipe since 2007 answered the question. "Yeah," he said. "This is my favorite halfpipe of X Games, dare I say it. It's riding really good. I'm excited. This will be fun."

White hasn't snowboarded much since Sochi but he did spend time training recently in Calgary, Alberta, with his longtime coach, Bud Keene. Given that reigning Olympic champion Iouri Podladtchikov and 2014 X Games gold medalist Danny Davis will also be in Thursday's field, White stopped short of calling himself the favorite.

"I don't know," he said. "I always carry a certain expectation in my mind at any event; that's never changed. I show up and want to do the best I can, and obviously doing well at this event competing with Danny and I-Pod [Podladtchikov] would be great. It'd be a nice refresh after everything that happened at the Olympics."

Suffice it to say White's last competition left a sour taste in his mouth. After withdrawing from the Olympic slopestyle competition, White, the heavy favorite in halfpipe, failed to land his run in a slushy Sochi pipe, conceding the title to the Russian-born, Swiss-raised Podladtchikov. Since then, White has poured more energy into his music and business -- he plays in a band, Bad Things, and bought a majority stake in the global big air competition known as Air & Style last January -- than his snowboarding.

"I guess in my mind, in some way or another, I kind of just scratched it off," White said of the Olympic disappointment. "It was a frustrating circumstance for me especially. It was a really big deal for me to go back to the Olympics and try to complete the three-peat in halfpipe. I took on a lot, trying to do slope as well as pipe. In hindsight, you can always look back and question what you did, but that was the beauty of being in the hunt of it; that's what was really driving me at that point.

"I guess going forward, yeah, why look back?" he added. "I definitely learned some lessons and I definitely feel better off than before, in a way. I really feel that. I think that for me it was a learning experience, and I'm pumped to be riding still."