The first day of competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi is set to begin tomorrow, only it will be without one of the event’s biggest stars.
American snowboard superstar Shaun White pulled out of the slopestyle event this morning, citing injury concerns and his desire to focus on his signature event, the halfpipe. A two-time gold medalist in the halfpipe, White is once again the heavy favorite in Sochi.
“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,” White said in an official statement. “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 a part being a part of.”
White jammed his wrist after a rough fall in a training run at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, the venue for the inaugural Olympic slopestyle competition. He wasn’t the first rider to get hurt in training, either, as Norway’s Torstein Horgmo broke his collarbone on Monday and will miss the entire Games. Marika Enne, a 21-year-old Finnish rider, suffered a concussion as well.
Obviously, snowboarding isn’t a sport where injuries are uncommon. The entire competition is based on doing everything bigger, faster, and harder, and naturally there are going to be some casualties. But White took it a step further by calling for some changes to be made to the course, echoing some other riders’ thoughts that the jumps might be set up too steeply, or that the course is running a bit too fast.
Some of the Canadian slopestyle riders, including X Games gold medalist Sebastien Toutant, have insinuated that White is scared to compete in an event he’s not a massive favorite in, but that’s just wrong. If the track isn’t safe for some of the best athletes in the world, then perhaps there’s some merit to White’s claims. Issues with Olympic venues are popping up at an alarming rate, and it’s not a good look for Sochi organizers.
For fans of White, though, the good news is that his injury is minor and not expected to keep him from beginning his halfpipe defense on Tuesday. Hopefully, course officials take a good look at their setup before competition begins tomorrow and the best in the world can put their full skills on display.