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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Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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