KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Shaun White
pulled out of the Olympic slopestyle contest Wednesday, about 24 hours
after being banged up on a course that riders are criticizing as unduly
"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.
Considered among the favorites in the new
Olympic event, White jammed his left wrist during practice Tuesday, and
when he came off the slopestyle course, he called it "a little
White's stunning decision — withdrawing from an
event added to the program in part to increase his exposure on the
world's biggest stage — is yet another blow for the still-to-start Sochi
Games, which have been wracked by security threats, political fighting
and the loss of at least one other headliner, injured American skier
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
White 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.
focus will now solely be on next Tuesday's contest in the halfpipe,
which is essentially a hollowed-out ice shell with 22-foot (7-meter)
sidewalls. There is danger there, but unlike slopestyle, it's based
mostly on the types of head-over-heels 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.
White deemed his
jammed wrist as nothing serious and said reports about it were
overblown. But he said there remained serious issues with the slopestyle
"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."
Reaction came from several corners, not all of them positive.
White... It's easy to find excuses to pull out of a contest when you
think you can't win," Canadian rider Sebastian Toutant tweeted.
prospects for slopestyle were uncertain, at best. He's the five-time
Winter X Games champion, though he more or less gave up the event about
six years ago to focus solely on the halfpipe. But he hurt his ankle on
the halfpipe in the season's first Olympic qualifier, then bashed his
shoulder during a nasty fall in slopestyle about a month later.
pulled out of events, changed his mind about the X Games — considered
the biggest snowboarding event outside of the Olympics — a few times
before skipping that, as well. In all, it has been a hectic lead-up
period as he tried to juggle both events, and it didn't stop once he
reached Russia. The slopestyle final is set for Saturday, which would
cost him the first day of practice on the halfpipe.
juggling both events," White said during the news conference.
"Definitely not easy. It's something that's been talked about quite a
bit. Losing a day of practice is a serious thing, especially with a new
course and the challenges I'd face in slopestyle."
He said watching the injuries pile up on the course didn't build much confidence.
top rider, Torstein Horgmo of Norway, was forced out after breaking his
collarbone during practice Monday. On Tuesday, Finnish rider Marika
Enne was carted off the course with a concussion.
said the dangers of the course were being overblown — "There's no way
this course is too dangerous," American Sage Kotsenburg said.
Others, however, admitted they were having a tough time.
a little intense, a little challenging," said American rider Jamie
Anderson, a gold-medal favorite on the women's side. "The jumps are
still a little weird. I'm having a questionable time getting used to
them. But I'm just being slow, patient, taking them one jump at a time."
American Nick Goepper, a favorite in the skiing version of slopestyle, was surprised by White's news.
a notable person and he probably would have brought more viewers to
slopestyle," Goepper said. "But it opens the door for other athletes,
and if anything, it means he's going to come back in four years and be
even more prepared for slopestyle."
AP Sports Writer Will Graves contributed to this report.