Shaun White
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Shaun White drops slopestyle, adds Winter X Games, continues Air + Style

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Shaun White plans to qualify in one event, not two, for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The 2006 and 2010 Olympic halfpipe champion has dropped slopestyle from his repertoire and doesn’t think he’ll re-add it before the Winter Games in PyeongChang, which start in 400 days.

Remember, White tried to compete in both halfpipe and slopestyle at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He withdrew from slopestyle on the eve of the Games and then finished fourth in halfpipe.

White competed in one slopestyle contest since Sochi, on March 4, and finished last.

“Slopestyle is just really not something I’m as interested in right now,” White said Thursday. “At the Olympics last time around, trying to do slope and halfpipe was, now looking back, I feel like one of the reasons why things maybe didn’t go as well for either. It’s hard to do both.

“It was just a struggle. I was learning, like, one trick in the slopestyle, then panicking and going over to the halfpipe and trying to learn a trick there. And then forgetting the trick I just learned on the [slopestyle] jumps. So I had to go back. It was just too much. I’m thinking, for me, and everything right now, what I want to do for my career to compete in all these things, slopestyle just doesn’t make sense.”

Also Thursday, White said he will return to the Winter X Games later this month, after controversially missing last year’s event.

“There was just, I don’t what you’d call it, maybe a miscommunication [last year],” White said, laughing. “We both realized it’s a contest, and the world’s best will be there, and I want to compete. That’s kind of all there is to it.”

It’s part of a busy season for White, who again will put on an Air + Style event in his native Los Angeles.

This year’s festival, set to include 30 snowboarders from 12 countries in addition to musical acts, is Feb. 18-19 at the LA Memorial Coliseum, site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

More Air + Style information is available here.

White doesn’t compete at Air + Style, but his contest schedule this winter also includes World Cup events in Mammoth Mountain, Calif., and at the South Korean Olympic venue in February, plus the U.S. Open in March.

It will be his busiest season since Sochi. White’s band has broken up, opening up time to focus on the sport (as well as lessons for piano and singing).

White has already competed once this season, but it was not memorable. He shockingly failed to make the final of the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain on Dec. 15.

There’s a good reason for that. White was coming off surgery.

In October, White was training in New Zealand when his troublesome left ankle started acting up. White has dealt with ankle problems since 2009 and decided to undergo surgery to make sure it wouldn’t hinder him on the road to PyeongChang.

He said he used Copper as a “test run” for his ankle, and with heavy snowfall and poor conditions, didn’t want to take any unnecessary risk.

White hopes 2018 will not mark his final Olympics. He wants to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games, since skateboarding is being added to that Olympic program. White won X Games vert titles in 2007 and 2011, but the 2020 Olympic format is a combination of park and street.

VIDEO: 15-year-old Shaun White just misses 2002 Olympics

Shaun White struggles in first halfpipe contest of season

COPPER MOUNTAIN, CO - DECEMBER 13:  Shaun White takes a practice run in the halfpipe during the 2017 U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix at Copper Mountain on December 13, 2016 in Copper Mountain, Colorado.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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It’s not often that Shaun White fails to qualify for a halfpipe final, but that’s just what happened in his first contest of the season at the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colo., on Wednesday.

The two-time Olympic champion finished 18th overall in qualifying with scores of 65.50 and 7.50 in his two runs. White lacked his typical speed and amplitude but didn’t crash, an event spokesman said.

White has finished fourth or better in just about all of his contests since 2002, when he just missed making the Salt Lake City Olympic team at age 15.

White’s worst major result in the last 14 years was a 10th at the 2004 Winter X Games, where he reportedly tore the meniscus in his right knee.

White finished fourth at both the Sochi Olympics and the 2015 X Games but came back strong last season, winning both of his contests — the Dew Tour Mountain Championships and U.S. Open.

Also at Copper Mountain, three-time Olympic halfpipe medalist Kelly Clark trained but opted not to compete as she works her way back from March hip surgery.

The finals are led by Sochi Olympic champion Iouri Podladtchikov and two-time X Games champion Chloe Kim.

NBCSports.com/live will stream the finals on Friday at 1 p.m. ET.

MORE: Olympic snowboard champion ‘on the fence’ about Pyeongchang 2018

Snowboarder Kaitlyn Farrington, forced to retire early, not staying grounded

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 12:  Kaitlyn Farrington of the United States waits for her score in the Snowboard Women's Halfpipe Finals on day five of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 12, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
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Kaitlyn Farrington lost her Olympic gold medal. Two weeks passed, and it still hadn’t turned up. She was ready to ransack her home.

“My parents wanted to kill me, because I went through a moment of saying, ‘I have no idea where it is, mom and dad,'” said Farrington, who grew up in Idaho and then moved to Utah. “And they’re like, really Kaitlyn?”

Time was running out.

Farrington was scheduled to fly to New York earlier this month for a U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association fundraiser, where several other Olympians from the past 50 years would display their medals.

The day before her flight, Farrington sat on a bed and felt something weird. She lifted the mattress and found her Sochi gold.

Farrington lists her place on Airbnb due to frequent travels and apparently stuffed her medal there (and locked the room) during a recent leave.

“It hides in drawers or wherever. It’s around. It’s out and about,” Farrington joked after arriving in New York. “My medal’s a little dinged up because I’ve had a lot of fun with it.”

Farrington was one of the surprises of the Sochi Winter Games. She arrived in Russia as the only member of the four-woman U.S. halfpipe team without a major victory.

Then she beat an Olympic field that included the past three gold medalists — Kelly Clark, Hannah Teter and Torah Bright.

Less than a year later, Farrington emotionally announced her retirement at age 25 due to a degenerative spine condition. She learned of her congenital cervical stenosis after a fall 2014 crash that left her unable to feel anything for two minutes.

Farrington was fortunate she had never done permanent damage. If she had known about the condition earlier in life, she may never have become a snowboarder.

In retiring from halfpipe, Farrington made a deal with her longtime doctor, U.S. snowboard team physician Tom Hackett.

“I just have to keep my feet on the ground,” Farrington said in her retirement interview published Jan. 19, 2015. “I still want to be a professional snowboarder, I just have to figure out what that means.”

Farrington worked it out to continue strapping on her board the last 19 months. It’s not the same one she rode in Sochi, though. Farrington is occupying her time coaching, riding and filming, traveling the world as a back-country snowboarder.

“I definitely don’t think about the Olympics as much because that’s not who I am anymore,” said Farrington, before cutting off her words and offering a correction. “Or, right now, I feel like [if I was] a [halfpipe] rider, I’d be thinking about going into the next Olympics. My full pace has changed in the past three years, and now I am a back-country rider. I used to be a halfpipe rider.”

She’s not performing flips, twists or frontside airs, but she’s far from grounded. Farrington summited Alaska’s Denali, the highest peak in North America, in June.

She also trekked through Argentina and Chile during the South American winter, when she watched the Rio Olympics on TV and bawled during award ceremonies.

“Because I knew everything they were going through,” she said.

Farrington also has plans later this fall to work in Kazakhstan with a filmmaker who described himself as a splitboard mountaineer.

At some point in the last 19 months, Farrington said she re-fell in love with snowboarding, riding the way she first learned the sport. But then there are also these moments.

“I get a little jittery sometimes when I want to leave the ground,” said Farrington, who would risk paralysis with a fall, “but I always know better.”

When she was diagnosed two years ago, some doctors told her she could never snowboard again. Some today say they can’t believe she’s still snowboarding.

Hackett, who offered her that deal to snowboard without leaving her feet, is the one whose opinion matters most of all. Farrington sees him every six months for MRIs and has him on speed dial for more spontaneous communication.

“I’m like, so, can I go on this roller coaster?” Farrington will ask him. “He’s like, eh, not the best choice, Kaitlyn.”

Hackett urges Farrington to discuss a surgery that she said would lessen her risk should she be in any whiplash situation. The procedure would also be extensive enough to keep her from riding for at least one year.

Farrington avoids the conversation.

“It would really be the end of my snowboard career,” she said. “[The surgery] wouldn’t put me back in a halfpipe. [My back] feels fine. Why go under the knife if you don’t have to?”

MORE: Snowboarder on Time’s Most Influential Teens list