KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia, February 5 (R-Sport) – U.S. snowboard star Shaun White has pulled out of the Sochi Olympic slopestyle event to focus on winning a third halfpipe title, officials said Wednesday.
White, who won halfpipe gold in 2006 and 2010, had been due to attempt two Olympic events for the first time with the introduction of the new slopestyle discipline.
"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 Olympics goals on," White told NBC's "Today" show in a statement.
"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 a part being a part of," he added
White hurt his wrist in a fall on the slopestyle course Tuesday, on a course he has called “intimidating,” but brushed off injury worries at a news conference Wednesday.
There, barely an hour earlier, he made no mention of plans to withdraw from slopestyle and even discussed the course and said the halfpipe would be his priority.
White’s withdrawal strengthens the gold medal hopes of Canada’s Max Parrot, widely considered the favorite. "Shaun knows he won't be able to win the slopes, thats why he pulled out. He's scared," X-Games champion Parrot wrote on Twitter.
Shortly before it was announced that White would compete only in halfpipe, the women's ski slopestyle field was shaken when medal contender and X-Games winner Tiril Sjaastad Christiansen pulled out of the competition after battling a knee injury.
"It was worth it for me to try and compete at Sochi and I have learned a lot just by being here. However, I believe that the pain in my knee is too intense for me to be able to perform my best run," she said.
"Skiing in Norway last week I felt that it might work but conditions here in Sochi are too difficult on my knee."
Sajaastad Christiansen had reportedly delayed surgery on her knee in order to compete in Sochi. The Norwegian's departure strengthens the gold medal hopes of Canada's Dara Howell and Keri Simpson of the United States.
The men’s halfpipe final is Tuesday, three days after the slopestyle. The women's ski slopestyle is also Tuesday.