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.
Americans Chas Guldemond, Sage 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.