Dusty Henricksen: Top five things you need to know about the snowboarding Youth Olympic champion

After winning YOG gold at Lausanne 2020, the American announced his arrival to the senior ranks in style with two gold medals at the 2021 Winter X Games. Here’s what else you need to know about the prodigy.

By Chloe Merrell
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

The first whisperings of snowboarding sensation Dusty Henricksen’s promise were heard at the Laax Open in Switzerland back in January 2020.

The 18-year-old rookie shocked Olympic medallists Sebastien Toutant and Staale Sandbech to come top in qualifying. In the final he claimed his first ever top 10 finish, going viral after he put down a double front-flip hand drag off the knuckle.

With a winning feeling in his stride, the prodigy won his first World Cup at Mammoth Mountain, before stomping his first ever quad cork at the U.S. Open to clinch silver.

And were there still any lingering doubts about the young gun’s ability on a board, in between Burton and the U.S. Grand Prix, Henricksen found time to grab gold in slopestyle at the 2020 Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne.

Following his breakout 2020, the then 17-year-old went after a piece of history at his first ever X Games in Aspen, 2021.

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team rider took gold in the snowboard Knuckle Huck contest before then backing it up with another win in the slopestyle competition on the strength of a run that included a switch backside 1260 and a double-grab 1440.

In victory, Henricksen became the first American in 12 years to win a men’s snowboard slopestyle gold. The last person to achieve the feat? Three-time Olympic gold medallist and most decorated Olympic snowboarder of all time: Shaun White.

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics hopeful is now focused on making his case for a place on Team USA’s roster for the Games.

But what else do you know about the teenage sensation?

Dusty Henricksen en route to gold at the Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympic Games.

1 - Why Dusty Henricksen is called ‘Dusty’

Travelling around the world and ripping it up in one of the most daring Olympic sports requires a strong amount of backing.

Fortunately for Henricksen, that came in spades thanks to his adventurous parents.

The American rider credits his mum and dad with having thrown him into a whole host of different sports as he grew up including mountain biking, motorcycling, surfboarding and skateboarding.

At five years old Henricksen was already entering snowboarding competitions and several victories pointed to his potential on the snow.

However, the young snowboarder’s father, Marko, had different designs for his son which, he explains are evident in his name:

“My dad wanted me to be a dirt bike racer,” Henricksen shared with the The Bomb Hole podcast. “They [Henricksen’s parents] just thought in general I’d be in the dirt my whole life; that’s all they were doing at the time when they had me.”

Hence the name ‘Dusty.’

2 - Dusty Henricksen’s dad coached Shaun White

When Henricksen ended America’s X Games slopestyle gold medal drought back in January, parallels were invariably drawn between the teen sensation and White.

Not least because the Winter Olympic legend was the last American to have won gold in the event back in 2009.

Add to the mix the fact that White was also a teenager (19) when he first emerged on the snowboarding scene, it’s easy to begin comparing the two.

But what they share in common runs a little deeper than just contest results.

Henricksen’s father, Marko, was one of White’s first coaches at Big Bear Mountain in California and what’s more, Marko used to show a young Dusty videos of the flame-haired snowboarder tearing it up on the slopes.

Dusty Henricksen at Mammoth Mountain
Picture by 2020 Getty Images

3 - Hustling hard to achieve the Olympic dream

As Henricksen developed as a rider, his parents could see that their young son’s talent needed pushing.

At 12 years old, he and his family moved from Big Bear to Mammoth so that they expose Henricksen to bigger jumps.

Soon enough he found himself on the Revelation Tour – a competition geared towards younger riders aged 13-19 – but all the travel proved to be expensive.

Showing his now famed capacity for innovation and style, Henricksen began making duct tape wallets to help his family cover his competition expenses.

What started out as something of a hobby became a hustle and soon, he and his Grandma Wendy were making and selling the wallets for $15 at a local store in Mammoth.

“100% of the proceeds goes directly to Dusty Henricksen for training and travel. Maybe a little bit of food now and then,” reads the website description for the wallets.

You’ll be hard pressed to buy one now – as they’re all out of stock – but you can see what they once looked like here.

4 - Stomping quads and going viral? It's ‘snow’ big deal

There’s a certain fearlessness required to be a slopestyle specialist.

Some tricks send boarders through several rotations in the air before they land and find the snow again. Confidence, execution and ultimately, not being afraid of failure, are all key ingredients to success.

“There are so many inconsistencies in the way the sport works,” the Youth Olympic champion continued on the podcast.

“One edge mark creates one rut one way and then you fall into that rut, or you catch an edge on a rail and then, I don’t know, you break your hip or something crazy.”

“You never know what’s going to happen so it’s kind of hard to control everything when you can’t control anything.”

“I try to just relax and try and just snowboard – treat it like another practice run.”

Something that certainly helps the ever-daring boarder is listening to music while he competes. So, what was Henricksen listening to when he clinched his slopestyle X-Games medal earlier this year?

“I was listening to Hypnotize [by Biggie Smalls] on repeat all day.”

5 - Dusty Henricksen dominant on Youth Olympic debut

Though he is yet to secure a berth for Beijing 2022, Henricksen has plenty of reasons to be confident should he make it to a Winter Olympics.

At Lausanne 2020, the then 16-year-old showed the kind of form that has seen him score major titles in senior competitions.

He finished head and shoulders above the rest taking gold with a score of 96.33, an eye-watering 11 points ahead of Canadian Liam Brearley who finished with silver.

The Beijing 2020 Winter Olympic Games are set to take place from February 4 - February 22, 2022. Find out more on Olympics.com website, app, and @Olympics social media handles on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.

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