Shaun White’s dual medal agenda at the Sochi Winter Olympics appears to have been curtailed.
Today, February 5th, 2014, Shaun White announced that he will not be competing in Slopestyle’s Olympic debut. The first rider to qualify for the US Olympic Slopestyle team back in January has cited a challenging course, a wrist injury, and a desire to focus on achieving an unprecedented third Olympic Halfpipe gold medal as his reasons for the withdrawal.
While some see Shaun’s decision as wise and welcome, him bringing to light the sub-par approach the IOC and International Ski Federation have taken to ensure that slopestyle’s Olympic welcome goes off without a hitch, many others are disappointed by Shaun’s pulling out, pointing to the fact that all slopestyle courses have their challenges and there are other capable Americans back home who have lost out on the opportunity to represent their country in Sochi. The specific issues competitors are having with the course seem to revolve around slick rails and jumps whose trajectory is too poppy. Perhaps most vocal about the situation are Shaun’s competitors who have turned to social media to show their consternation and skepticism. Canadian slopestyle contender Sebastien Toutant tweeted today, “Mr. White… It’s easy to find excuses to pull out of a contest when you think you can’t win…” Seb’s Cannuck teammate and 2014 X Games Slopestyle Champion Maxence Parrot concurred himself, tweeting, “Shaun knows he won't be able to win the slopes, thats why he pulled out. He's scared!”
Unlike the sterile confines of the halfpipe event, where venues are crafted to exacting specifications, slopestyles are largely a product of the conditions, terrain and creativity of their creators. Beyond these variables is the factor of experience, which the IOC and International Ski Federation lack when compared to other top tier snowboard competitions like the X Games and Dew Tour. Still Shaun’s teammate Chas Guldemond was noticeably optimistic optimistic about the setup though still pointed in a recent Facebook post stating, “People say the course is not safe but they are wrong. The jumps are sick and the flow is really good. Don’t believe the media hype. I am real bummed that one our fellow American boys is not here to ride with us because somebody decided not to compete today. Pretty Lame.”
With both Shaun White and injured Norwegian medal favorite Torstein Horgmo out of contention, riders like Mark McMorris, Sebastien Toutant, Maxence Parrot, Stale Sandbech, Chas Guldemond and Sage Kotsenberg have increased their podium chances considerably. Keep checking back to Snowboardermag.com for more Sochi Olympic updates.