Thursday, April 17, 2014
(Continued from page 1)
ON SECOND THOUGHT: Shaun White takes a jump during a Snowboard Slopestyle training session at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics. White said that he is pulling out of the Olympic slopestyle contest to focus solely on winning a third straight gold medal on the halfpipe.
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 is favored to become the first male American to win three straight golds in the Winter Games.
His prospects for slopestyle, on the other hand, were uncertain. He’s the five-time Winter X Games champion, though he more or less gave up the event about five years ago to focus solely on the halfpipe. 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 a few times about the X Games — considered the biggest snowboarding event outside of the Olympics — before skipping that, as well. In all, it has been a hectic lead-up period as he tried to deal with 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. “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.
There were dozens of other less-serious flips and spills.
Many riders said the dangers of the course were being overblown — “There’s no way this course is too dangerous,” American Sage Kotsenburg insisted.
But White and Bright are not alone in criticizing the setup.
“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.”
While the other riders might breathe a little easier knowing one of their main competitors is out of the way, White understands his place in the sport and the gravity of his decision.
“Not one I take lightly,” he said. “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.”
AP Sports Writer Will Graves contributed to this report.