Two-time Winter Olympics halfpipe gold medalist Shaun White withdrew from the inaugural snowboard slopestyle event today at the Sochi Olympics.
After spraining his wrist in a fall during a practice run on Tuesday, and after the highly ranked Norwegian Torstein Horgmo earlier pulled out due to a broken collarbone, White reluctantly announced his decision.
While his injury was mild in comparison, he bailed because of safety reasons. Several boarders grappled with the steep drop-in, roughly built rails, and high jumps – many falling off course during their pre-competition runs.
"It's frustrating to see it. I'm hoping the builders can make some changes and the course has a little more of a friendly vibe,” said White in an AP wire.
Other athletes (barely) walked away with similar stories about ill-groomed jumps and sticky rails. After the first day of training, the FIS organization met with these athletes who discussed their fears – unusual anxieties for these daredevils. At this session, they recommended such improvements as trimming the jumps, and modifying the rails.
American Jamie Anderson, a gold medal favorite, said, “The course is a little intense. Everyone's making the best of it. I'm having a questionable time getting used to it. “
Slopestyle was added to the Winter Olympics slate for Sochi in a very hurried manner by an eager federation intent on injecting more excitement into the Olympic Games. During the 2010-2011 season, the FIS held its first international contest for this discipline, and then raced to pitch it to the receptive International Olympics Committee for quick approval.
Notwithstanding this rush to judgment that forced the FIS to scramble to ready this sport for prime-time, the Sochi Olympics test event was cancelled last February. Due to inclimate weather, these boarders could not try out this course to prepare themselves for the Olympics - as was accomplished for other trial contests in skiing, sledding, and skating sports.
To mitigate the risk, the FIS last summer released a model showing the construct of the course – complete with its man-made features at the top, and kickers at the bottom. Overall, the slopestyle community was stoked about this pictorial view, and shared nothing but positive vibes. At the time, many felt that the course was even a bit lame by their risk-taking standards.
In time for tomorrow’s opening round, the FIS organizer is now scrambling to modify the course to address these uncharacteristic fears.
In the meantime, White now shifts his sole focus to halfpipe to throw down another gold medal run next week. Despite his withdrawal, the USSA federation has opted not to fill this slot. Based on the U.S. qualifications results, rising boarder Brandon Davis was the next in line to fill in.
Therefore, White's teammates Chas Guldemond, Sage Kotsenberg, and Ryan Stassel must now step up to seize a podium spot.
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