Shaun White is still going for the gold at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. But when competition kicks off on Thursday he’ll only be snowboarding in one event instead of two. The two-time defending gold medalist in halfpipe announced on Wednesday (February 5) that he was bailing on the inaugural run of slopestyle at the games.
“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 a 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.”
And while White was one of the biggest advocates for including the event — which includes jumps and rails scattered across a downhill section of mountain — his statement said he was pulling out because the potential risk for injury on the course was too high. White, who has endured a series of nagging injuries during qualifying, was going to be the only U.S. athlete competing in both slopestyle and halfpipe.
The man formerly known as the “Flying Tomato” endured some not so gentle taunts from his Canadian competitors in light of the news. “Mr. White … It’s easy to find excuses to pull out of a contest when you think you can’t win,” wrote rival Sebastien Toutant, who took slopestyle gold at the 2011 Winter X Games.
Mr. White… It's easy to find excuses to pull out of a contest when you think you can't win…
— Sebastien Toutant (@SebToots) February 5, 2014
Another Canadian, 19-year-old Maxence Parrot, wrote (and later deleted) a tweet in which he said, “Shaun knows he won’t be able to win the slopes … that’s why he pulled out. He’s scared!” The winner of slopestyle at last month’s Winter X Games later apologized and said, “It’s not as fun to compete at the Olympics when the riders underlights aren’t there.”
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.
— Maxence Parrot (@MaxParrot)
February 5, 2014
In a recent profile in the New York Times Sunday magazine, a reporter chronicled 27-year-old White’s struggle to land the triple cork 1440, a trick consisting of three flips (horizontal, lateral and vertical) executed while doing four 360-degree spins that’s considered essential to win gold at the games.
Slopestyle training took some time away from his quest to become the first American male athlete to win three consecutive Winter Games gold in the same event. Entrepreneur White was also somewhat distracted with the touring and promotion he did for his band, Bad Things, who performed at Lollapalooza
in August and released their debut album a short time later.
“It completely interferes with everything else that I’m doing,” White told MTV News at the time about the time commitment the band took and it’s impact on his training. “But that’s why it’s good. For me it’s nice to take a break from the sporting world of things and have fun and play music.”