Here's another feather that we can take out of the Sochi Olympics' cap: After injuring his wrist while on a practice run on the slopestyle course yesterday, Shaun White has decided to pull out of the event altogether. This is the first time slopestyle has been included as an Olympic event, and it just lost the sport's biggest star.
Of course, White's decision is at least in part the result of Sochi's failures. The slopestyle course is particularly treacherous, and has already caused serious injuries to a few Olympic riders. Norway's Torstein Horgmo, who was a medal hopeful, was forced to pull out of the competition after breaking his collarbone during a practice run on Monday. On Tuesday, Finnish rider Marika Enne was carted off the course with a concussion.
Riders have been griping about how dangerous the course is since arriving in Sochi, and some of their comments have painted a grim picture:
''It looks pretty sketchy, the rails are sticky,'' Roope Tonteri, the 2013 world champion in men's slopestyle, was quoted as saying. ''I think they wanted to make big kickers, and it's not really good for riders, and it's not really safe. I just don't want to get injured. It's not a really fun course to ride.''
Sebastien Toutant of Canada told the Olympic News Service, ''It's like jumping out of a building.''
Seamus O'Connor, a U.S.-born 16-year-old rider who is competing for Ireland in the snowboard halfpipe and slopestyle, told the Irish media that the course was ''pretty dangerous'' and urged the athletes to seek changes.
''They overbuilt the jumps because they were anticipating that the snow would melt. At the moment, the riders are not happy,'' O'Connor was quoted as saying.
Riders were hoping that the course designers would make necessary changes, but based on White's comments from today, it doesn't seem like he has a lot of confidence that the course is going to change:
"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.
White will still compete in the halfpipe event, and if there is a bright side to his decision to abandon slopestyle, it's that we might have some hot USA vs. Canada snowboarding beef on our hands:
Shaun knows he won't be able to win the slopes, thats why he pulled out. He's scared!
— Maxence Parrot (@MaxParrot) February 5, 2014
Mr. White... It's easy to find excuses to pull out of a contest when you think you can't win...
— Sebastien Toutant (@SebToots) February 5, 2014
Careful with those burns, fellas! You might melt the snow!