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Goodbye Flying Tomato, hello "Animal"

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - A word from American snowboarding great Shaun White -- no more “Flying Tomato.”

Shaun White of the U.S. competes during qualification in the men's half pipe snowboarding competition at the Torino 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Bardonecchia, Italy in this February 12, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/Files

The defending Olympic champion, who has revolutionized the snowboarding world with his increasingly difficult tricks on the halfpipe, would prefer to be known as “Animal.”

“Apparently I resemble the drummer from the Muppets so ‘Animal’ has become my thing here,” said White, referring to the crazed drummer of the band on the Muppet Show.

White said he thought “Flying Tomato,” the moniker he picked up when he soared to victory at the 2006 Olympics, was now “dead in the water.”

“I guess I’m deemed Shaun ‘Animal’ White,” the snowboarder told a news conference, pushing back his long mane of thick red hair.

Animal is a fitting nickname for White, who has raised the stakes ahead of the Olympics with his newest snowboarding trick and shown that he is the man to beat on the halfpipe.

Twice in competition, White has performed the Double McTwist 1260 -- a double backward flip with three and a half revolutions ending in a blind landing.

Two weeks ago at the X-Games, he crashed hard doing the trick in a practice run, losing his helmet as his head slammed into the halfpipe.

But he picked himself up, performed the trick in the competition and won.

“I just had to shake it off and go back up. That was my very first thought after I hit that I had to get up to the top and do it again.”

White said he never planned to unveil that trick this season, until he was pushed to perfect it after losing out in a competition to compatriot Danny Davis.

But now that he has done it, he plans to keep it, though he is still trying to figure out an appropriate name for the move.

“It’s been an amazing finisher for my run,” White told reporters at a news conference. “It’s something I’m proud to say is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

White said he hoped to be able to include the trick as he defends his Olympic title in Vancouver.

“I feel confident with that trick,” he said. “I’d feel somewhat disappointed if I didn’t keep it in the run.”

Editing by Jon Bramley