KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Shaun White pulled out of the Olympic slopestyle contest Wednesday after being dinged up on a course that riders are criticizing as unduly harsh.
White issued a statement, saying that after much deliberation, he has decided to forgo the new snowboarding event and concentrate on halfpipe, where he will try for his third straight gold medal next week.
“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 in a statement.
White, who was among the favorites in the new Olympic event, jammed his left wrist during practice Tuesday and when he came off the slopestyle course, he called it “a little intimidating.”
Slopestyle is a speed-packed trip down the mountain, filled with rails, bumps and, most notably, steeply angled jumps that allow riders to flip two, sometimes three times, before landing. White hurt his wrist on one of the takeoff ramps, which one top rider, Canadian Mark McMorris, said were built “kind of obnoxiously tall.”
White, 27, has been dealing with a number of nagging injuries during a winter in which he was one of the few riders trying to compete in both events. The wrist added to a list that includes his shoulder and ankle, both injured during qualifying events for the U.S. team.
His focus will now solely be on next Tuesday’s contest in the halfpipe, which is essentially a hollowed-out ice shell with 22-foot sidewalls. There is danger there, but unlike slopestyle, it’s based mostly on the types of tricks the riders try and not the setup of the pipe.
In a news conference about an hour before he gave first word of his decision to the “Today” show, White was asked whether halfpipe was more important to him.
“For me, I definitely feel the halfpipe carries a bit more weight, a bit more pressure. I guess that’s fair enough to say,” he said.
He deemed his jammed wrist as nothing serious and said reports about it were overblown.
But he said there remained serious issues with the slopestyle course.
“There are definitely concerns about the course,” he said. “It’s been interesting to see how it’s developed and changed over the past couple days. The big question is, if it will continue to change. Because every day, they have riders meetings and they give feedback. Sometimes there’s changes, sometimes there’s not.”