Shaun White

Shaun White pulls out of slopestyle; Canadians react

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Shaun White withdrew from the Sochi Olympic slopestyle snowboarding competition Wednesday, citing injury risk one day before the event makes its Winter Games debut.

“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, according to TODAY. “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 part of.

“With the practice runs I have taken, even after course modifications and watching fellow athletes get hurt, the potential risk of injury is a bit too much for me to gamble my other Olympic goals on.”

Riders raised concern over the course’s safety after a three-hour training session Monday and proposed changes to officials after Norwegian medal contender Torstein Horgmo broke a collarbone in a crash and withdrew from the Olympics.

White jammed a wrist in training Tuesday, but said it was “blown out of proportion” and that he was feeling healthy earlier Wednesday. He skipped slopestyle training Wednesday.

“I’m feeling healthy,” White said in a press conference before announcing his withdrawal. “In snowboarding you get bumps and bruises all the time.”

If White prevails in halfpipe Tuesday, he will become the first U.S. man to win the same Winter Olympic event three times. (Speed skater Shani Davis will attempt the same feat a day later in the 1000m.)

White, 27, won every Winter X Games slopestyle title from 2003 to 2006 before focusing more on halfpipe. He finished fifth at the 2013 X Games and did not enter the event this year but was considered an Olympic medal contender.

Slopestyle’s Olympic debut will go on without White and Horgmo starting with qualifiers Thursday and a final Saturday.

That makes a Canadian podium sweep very possible with two-time X Games champion Mark McMorris, 2013 European X Games champion Sebastien Toutant and reigning X Games champion Max Parrot.

McMorris is recovering from a broken rib suffered in a Jan. 25 crash at the X Games.

Toutant and Parrot, who are not attempting halfpipe, weighed in on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/sebtoots/status/431049913062133760

https://twitter.com/maxparrot/status/431040186135633920

Americans Chas GuldemondSage Kotsenburg and Ryan Stassel are also in the mix.

Four other men are slated to attempt the slopestyle-halfpipe double, including Finland’s Peetu Piiroinen, who won 2010 Olympic silver behind White in halfpipe.

White also gave up a bid to become the first Winter Olympian to win every event they entered in a career, having entered at least four events. Canadian hockey player Caroline Ouellette will get that chance in Sochi, too.

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Serena Williams eyes Australian Open return after pregnancy

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Serena Williams hopes to return from pregnancy (due date by the end of the summer) to defend her Australian Open title in January, according to Vogue.

“It’s the most outrageous plan,” Williams said, according to the report. “I just want to put that out there. That’s, like, three months after I give birth. I’m not walking anything back, but I’m just saying it’s pretty intense.”

Williams, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, won her 23rd Grand Slam singles title last January and, two months later, said she played that event while about two months pregnant.

Williams, 35, is already the oldest Grand Slam women’s singles champion in the Open Era. That’s by virtue not of her 2017 Australian Open title but of her 2016 Wimbledon crown.

She hopes to pass Margaret Court‘s record of 24 Grand Slaim singles titles, though Court won the majority of her events before the Open Era began in 1968.

“In this game you can go dark fast,” Williams said, according to the report. “If I lose, and I lose again, it’s like, she’s done. Especially since I’m not 20 years old. I’ll tell you this much: I won’t win less. Either I win, or I don’t play.”

As for another Olympics?

“I can’t promise that … Tokyo 2020 is a lot,” Williams said on Japanese TV on Jan. 28 after winning the Australian Open, while knowing she was already, secretly, two months pregnant.

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MORE: Past two men’s champions out of U.S. Open

Vuelta a España TV, live stream schedule

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Less than a month after winning his fourth Tour de France, Chris Froome returns to headline the Vuelta a España, the final Grand Tour of the season, with daily live coverage on NBC Sports Gold’s Cycling Pass and the Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA.

Olympic Channel coverage will be live streamed on OlympicChannel.com, the Olympic Channel app, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

NBCSN will also air encore broadcasts of select stages.

NBC Sports Gold coverage will be commercial-free.

Froome, eyeing his first Tour of Spain win after a trio of runners-up, is joined by Spaniard Alberto Contador, who has won every Grand Tour multiple times and is set to retire after this event.

Rounding out the marquee men is 2014 Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali, who also captured the Vuelta back in 2010.

Romain Bardet and Fabio Aru, who challenged Froome at the Tour de France last month, are also in the Vuelta field.

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