SOCHI, Russia -- Extreme-sports icon Shaun White, citing the potential risk of injury, on Wednesday pulled out of the slopestyle snowboarding competition at the Olympics.
White had called the course at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park “intimidating,” and already it had become the source of controversy in the first two days of training -- most notably in the case of Norwegian medal hopeful Torstein Horgmo, who withdrew after breaking his collarbone in a crash on Monday.
The decision for White was multi-pronged. He jammed his wrist in a slopestyle training fall on Tuesday and made the call to concentrate primarily on trying to win his third Olympic gold medal in the halfpipe event.
“The difficult decision to forgo slopestyle is not one I take lightly as I know how much effort everyone has put into holding the slopestyle event for the first time in Olympic history, a history I had planned on being a part of,” White said in a statement to NBC’s “Today Show,” which broke the news.
“With the practice runs I have taken, even after course modifications and watching fellow athletes get hurt, the potential risk of injury is a bit too much for me to gamble my other Olympics goals on,” White said.
White’s withdrawal was a significant blow to the event, which is making its Olympic debut.
The news came shortly after White and his halfpipe teammates held a news conference in the afternoon here, during which he went out of his way to say that his wrist injury had been “blown out of proportion a little bit.”
Afterward, he was asked more questions about the slopestyle course before the line of inquiry was stopped by an official.
“On snowboarding you get bumps and bruises all the time,” White said at the news conference. “It was the ankle, it was the shoulder. It was all these things, but they come and go, which is nice if it wasn’t something serious.
“Definitely concerns about the course. It’s been interesting to see how it’s developed and changed over the past few days. I guess the big question is if it will continue to change. Every day they have the riders meeting, they get feedback. Sometimes there’s changes, sometimes there’s not.”
The slopestyle snowboarders had been candid about their concerns over the safety of the course, and some said they felt that enough improvements had been made.
There will not be a replacement for White in the event from the U.S. team.
Qualifying is scheduled to start on Thursday, and the final is set for Saturday.