ROSA KHUTOR, Russia — Olympic champion Shaun White announced late Wednesday (Feb. 5) in Sochi that he was withdrawing from the slopestyle event in order to focus on winning an unprecedented third straight gold for Team USA in halfpipe. Slopestyle snowboarding will make its Olympic debut with qualification runs Thursday and the men’s finals opening the Games on Saturday. White will now concentrate on winning a third straight gold medal in the halfpipe snowboarding competition set for Tuesday at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
“After much deliberation with my team, I have made the decision to focus solely on trying to bring home the third straight gold medal in halfpipe for Team USA,” said White. “The difficult decision to forego 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 part of.”
Reports surfaced Tuesday indicating that White suffered a minor injury when he jammed his wrist while practicing on the Olympic slopestyle course. The course has taken fire from other athletes and coaches who questioned the safety of several jumps. Torstein Horgmo of Norway has already seen his Olympic dream dashed after breaking his collarbone during a rail slide, and Finland’s Marika Enne suffered a concussion after falling on course as well.
“It’s frustrating to see it,” White told the Associated Press on Tuesday. “It puts a damper on the whole mood, and it’s kind of like you’re getting ready to do a big trick and you see something like that. Intimidating. Unfortunate. I’m hoping the builders can make some changes and the course has a little more of a friendly vibe. But I can’t change the course. Just doing the best I can.”
The official announcement of White’s withdrawal from the slopestyle competition made no mention of course safety concerns.
“Shaun is the consummate professional and has made a sound athletic decision,” remarked USSA’s Snowboarding Director Jeremy Forster. “We anticipate an outstanding slopestyle debut on Saturday but also respect the importance to Shaun to keep his focus on winning a third halfpipe gold.”
USSA indicated that an alternate would not be entered with qualifications for Saturday’s finals scheduled for tomorrow.