Citing concerns about the safety of the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park course, snowboarding pioneer and superstar Shaun White officially withdrew from the inaugural slopestyle event at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia just a day before qualifiers were slated to begin, according to a Feb. 5 statement to Today.
Although disappointed to drop out of the event and forego a chance to be part of Olympic history, White, who suffered a mild wrist injury during a training run on Feb. 4, wasn't willing to "gamble my other Olympics goals" --namely becoming a three-time halfpipe gold medalist-- by competing in the event. He cited injuries sustained by fellow athletes including Norway's Torstein Horgmo, who arrived in Sochi as a gold medal favorite but was forced to withdraw after breaking his collarbone during a Feb. 3 training run, to justify his decision to focus solely on the halfpipe event.
Other athletes were less affected by Horgmo's accident, and criticized White for his decision. Canadian Maxence Parrot, who is currently favored by SkyBet to win the slopestyle event with 5/2 odds, initially slammed White via Twitter, writing "Shaun knows he won't be able to win the slopes, thats why he pulled out. He's scared!" Parrot deleted the tweet after facing backlash from followers, and issued an apology that read "I'm sorry if I offence anybody. I just meant that it's not as fun to compete at the Olympics when the riders underlights aren't there."
Despite White's withdrawal, the U.S. still has a slim chance to medal in the event with boarders Chas Guldemond, Sage Kotsenburg, and Ryan Stassel still in the mix for the Feb. 6 qualification round. Per the posted schedule, Guldemond will ride 10th in the first heat, while the other two men will compete in the second heat, with Kotsenburg riding 22nd and Stassel last in the 29th spot.
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi will officially begin with opening ceremonies on Feb. 7.