Roughly one hour after fielding questions about the challenge of juggling both the Olympic halfpipe and slopestyle competitions, two-time halfpipe champion Shaun White appeared on NBC and announced that he was withdrawing from the inaugural slopestyle competition, saying that “the potential risk of injury is a bit too much for me to gamble my other Olympic goals on.”
Moments later, White issued the following statement through the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association: “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. 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.”
White’s withdrawal, after his intensely chronicled pursuit of earning a spot on both Olympic snowboarding teams, robs the Games of yet another of its more compelling story lines. And it prompted a statement from the U.S. Olympic Committee, whose spokesman Patrick Sandusky said: “Shaun is a professional and certainly knows what’s best for his performance. We support the athletic decisions of our athletes, and look forward to watching the entire U.S. team perform.”
Roughly one hour prior, White gave no indication of his decision during a press conference with reporters, saying that the wrist injury he had suffered during slopestyle training earlier in the week had been “blown out of proportion a little bit” and joking about the challenge of balancing the conflicting schedules for practice and competition in both disciplines.
“I’m just going to rely on my super strength to take me through,” White said. “That’s basically the go-to plan.”
Two other athletes were injured on the slopestyle course, with Torstein Horgmo of Norway forced out of the competition by a broken collarbone. Marika Enne of Finland suffered a concussion. Although the sport has its inherent dangers, White, 27, was particularly concerned about the course on Tuesday.
“It’s frustrating to see it,” White told the Associated Press. “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.”
White, one of the few competitors entered in both slopestyle and halfpipe in Sochi, has battled a number of nagging injuries. He hurt his shoulder and ankle during qualifying events.