U.S. snowboard star Shaun White withdraws from slopestyle
White had deemed course "intimidating" day before making his decision
Double Olympic champion will turn attention to halfpipe
Two athletes have suffered injuries on slopestyle course
He’s the king of cool but U.S. snowboard star Shaun White won’t be reigning supreme over the daunting new slopestyle event at Sochi 2014.
The double Olympic champion, who had been nursing a wrist injury, withdrew Wednesday just a day after admitting the course presented an “intimidating” challenge.
Sochi organizers have faced fierce criticism over the layout at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, with competitors claiming that it is too dangerous to host the event – which is making its Winter Games debut.
And White’s withdrawal will do little to deflect that criticism, even if the athlete stopped short of giving a specific reason for his decision.
“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,” he said in a statement.
“The difficult decision to forgo 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 part of.”
Two snowboarders have already suffered injuries while practicing on the course, which is made up of rails, quarterpipes and jumps.
Norway’s X-Games champion Torstein Horgmo – widely considered a favorite for gold – suffered a broken collarbone while Finnish snowboarder Marika Enne was carried away on a stretcher after hitting her head following a fall.
“It’s intimidating,” White told reporters when asked about the course Tuesday.
“You know any time you show up to a course you have to learn the speed, the distance from the jumps and what the rails are like. It’s been a challenge.
“Any time you step out on a course there’s a certain amount of danger, there’s a certain element of risk you put yourself in for.
“Maybe this course might have a little bit more than others, but we’re trying to figure it out. We’re trying to get through the course, be safe and have a great Olympics.”