Shaun White gives young cancer patients hugs before Olympic final

Shaun White of the United States smiles after he competes in the Snowboard Men's Halfpipe Qualification Heats on day four of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 11, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Cameron Spencer, Getty Images

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Hours before he went for the win, Shaun White already had delivered a gold-medal moment.

 Shortly after qualifying for the Olympic halfpipe final Tuesday, White vaulted the barriers separating him from the fans and gave two young cancer patients high-fives and hugs.

  "I thought, 'He's here? What?'" said Ben Hughes, a 10-year-old from St. Louis who was diagnosed with luekemia four years ago.

Also sharing the love was 19-year-old Kaitlyn Lyle, who, like Hughes, was in Russia courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Lyle said she had "liked" White on his Facebook page.

 "I had no idea he'd do this," she said.

She was diagnosed a bit before the Vancouver Olympics and her wish was to come to Russia, where she was torn between asking for tickets for figure skating or snowboarding.

After meeting the cancer patients, the Washington Post's Mike Wise says he alerted the U.S. snowboarding press attache. It wasn't long before White made his leap into the crowd to meet Hughes and Lyle.

“I was hospitalized all of February in 2010 and watching Shaun helped me get through that time in my life,” Lyle told The Post. “My goal is to leave here as Mrs. Shaun White. Okay, maybe not. But it would be cool to meet him.”

White has lent his name to cancer research, appearing in a commercial for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

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