Snowboarding legend Shaun White is bailing on the Olympic slopestyle event, citing concerns over safety. On Monday, Norwegian Torstein Horgmo broke his collarbone on the slopestyle course in Sochi, prompting a wave of concern over the course’s construction. Olympic officials have altered the course in response, reducing three jumps by a combined height of six feet, but the alterations haven’t been enough to allay fears.
"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 told USA 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 a part being a part of."
White will continue to compete in the halfpipe, the competition for which he won gold medals in 2006 and 2010.
"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 said, having tested the course along with the other competitors.
While the other competitors must be dealing with White's leaving the competition with combined relief and trepidation, Olympic officials find themselves battling yet another publicity problem. "There have been a few changes made, but that's perfectly normal,” claimed IOC spokesperson Mark Adams. “I don't think there's any issue. A lot of the athletes have said they are very happy, they like the venue. I'm not a technical expert, but I understand there's been some minor changes up there the past few days but that would be normal, particularly for a new sport."
White has battled injuries in the run-up to the Olympics, suffering a sprained ankle in the halfpipe that forced him to forego the first round of slopestyle qualifying, as well as an injured shoulder and wrist on the slopestyle course. White claimed, however, that those injuries were “blown out of proportion.”
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