On Saturday morning, Sage Kotsenburg won the first U.S. Gold Medal of the Sochi 2014 Olympics with a great performance in the in the inaugural slopestyle event. While Kotsenburg had a run for the ages — which was capped off by the unveiling of a move he self titled the Holy Grail — all of the talk after the event was about the guy who chose not to participate. That man would happen to be Shaun White.
White, who decided to pull out of the slopestyle event after falling and jamming his wrist in the qualifying round of the event, was criticized by both American and Canadian snowboarders for his no-show in the finale. This criticism went from those who were jealous of the Flying Tomato, to those who felt snubbed and also included a mixture of both.
American Brandon Davis, who missed out on a chance to go to the Sochi 2014 Olympics because of White’s participation in the qualifying round, was understandably upset, as he said,”“It’s not a big deal for him. But for most people, the Olympics is a whole other level. It could have kick-started my career a bit, and gotten the ball rolling. But Shaun kind of dropped out like it’s nothing.”
Additionally, earlier in the week when White pulled out after practice runs earlier in the week, Canadian snowboarder Sebastien Toutant expressed a bit of anger when he said,“It’s easy to find excuses to pull out of a contest when you think you can’t win.”
In a bit of a different spin on things,Canadian Charles Reid lamented the fact that he couldn’t beat White in the slopestyle event when he said,”Shaun’s another competitor. He dominates in pipe, for sure, but I think in slopestyle we’re really strong. Everybody’s so strong that he’s like another rider. I don’t think he’s the one to look at in the slopestyle. He’s definitely a good rider. It’s sad that he pulled out because it maybe [would] show the world that we can do it the same. We can be as strong as him.”
So, what exactly does all of this conversation about White mean? In part it is clearly a nod to the fact that slopestyle is not the most high profile of events at the Sochi 2014 Olympics, and that riders would have loved the extra exposure that the Flying Tomato would bring to the event. But more importantly, it is an obvious nod to the fact that riders are generally jealous of the love and attention that White sees year round, as he has generous endorsements from Target, Red Bull and Burton Snowboards, amongst many others.
Of course, none of the participants in the snowboarding competition would readily admit to being jealous to the face of snowboarding, the X Games and winter sports in general, but they can’t be blamed. White is not only the favorite to take home a third straight Gold Medal in the halfpipe event, but he is the overall Goliath of winter sports, and it is always easier to take a swipe at the king when he isn’t present to hit back.