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White Skips Slope To Focus On Pipe

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Snowboarding News | Wednesday February 05, 2014 | Shared By: Snowboarding.com

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

harsh.

"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

intimidating."

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

Lindsey Vonn.

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 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 (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

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."

Reaction came from several corners, not all of them positive.

"Mr.

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.

White's

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.

He

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.

"It's tough

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.

Another

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.

Many riders

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.

"It's

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.

"He's

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.