Shaun White’s Withdrawal from Slopestyle

By Iris Moore
BU News Service

American snowboarder Shaun White’s decision to withdraw from the newest Olympic event, slopestyle, raised concerns regarding the course’s condition and suitability for competitors at Sochi.

On Wednesday, White issued a statement to the Associated Press saying, “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 Tuesday, White and fellow slopestylers assessed the Sochi course. They admitted to its high level of difficulty, bringing into question the course’s condition.

After a practice run, Finland rider Roope Tonteri said, “I think they wanted to make big kickers and it’s not really good for riders. It’s not really safe anymore.”

“The course needs some work… At the moment the riders are not happy,” said Seamus O’Connor, rider from Ireland.

During a practice run on Monday, Norway’s Torstein Horgmo broke his collarbone on the course.

The falls continued in the event final. Six of the 12 finalists fell on their jumps on their first runs of the final. Another four had crashes on their second runs.

But according to the president and CEO of the Sochi Olympic Organizing Committee in an interview with CTV News, the course is safe and the danger lies within the sport itself.

Slopestyle, a Winter X Games favorite, is known for its extreme tricks and high-altitude jumps. Competitors try to make their routine as far-reaching and jaw dropping as possible. In turn, this is one of the more accident-prone, perilous events out on the slopes.

However, the slopestyle course isn’t the only thing receiving criticism.

Given the timing of White’s decision to pull out of the event, no one could fill his spot on the team, which leads critics to believe his last minute announcement was intentional.

Some of White’s competitors had strong opinions regarding his withdrawal.

Canadian Max Parrot tweeted, “Shaun knows he won’t be able to win the slopes, thats why he pulled out. He’s scared!”

Sebastien Toutant, another Canadian rider, tweeted, “Mr. White… It’s easy to find excuses to pull out of a contest when you think you can’t win…”

Eventually they deleted their tweets and apologized. Both failed to medal in the slopestyle event on Saturday.

With the slopestyle event behind us (U.S. rider Sage Kotsenberg won the gold), all eyes will be on White during his performance in the halfpipe event on Tuesday. Not only does he have the chance to justify his decision to withdraw from slopestyle, but he has the opportunity to be a gold medal winner for a third consecutive Olympics.

Sochi Winter Olympics: Underdog American Strikes Gold in Slopestyle

USA captures first gold medal as Kotsenburg wins slopestyle event

By Andre Khatchaturian
BU News Service

Ask an American to name a snowboarder and the first name that will most likely come to mind is Shaun White.

They may want to learn a second name now: Sage Kotsenburg.

After White pulled out of the Men’s Slopestyle event, several international favorites emerged as gold medal favorites. However, it was Kotsenburg who pulled off a major upset and won the gold medal by delivering a nearly flawless first run with a score of 93.50.

The 20-year-old Idaho native was not among the eight riders to qualify in Thursday’s qualification round. He needed to qualify in the final round by finishing with a top-four score in the semifinals, which took place just a few hours before the medal round.

Even after qualifying for the final round, Kotsenburg was a long shot to medal – let alone win gold. Stale Sandbech of Norway, Max Parrot of Canada, Sven Thorgren of Sweden, and Roope Tonteri of Finland all put up magnificent qualifying scores and were expected to compete for the gold.

Slopestyle requires riders to snowboard down a mountain with several obstacles and jumps and they are judged based on the creativity and difficulty of their jumps. Riders have two runs and the best score stands.

During the first run, eight of the 12 finalists crashed and as a result, only three riders received scores above 80. Kotsenburg’s run was nearly flawless, though, and he took over first place early and never looked back. In the second run, six riders cracked 80, but nobody was able to top Kotsenburg’s first round score.

Sandbech had a run of 91.75 in the second run – good enough for the silver medal. Meanwhile, Mark McMorris had a score of 88.75 on his second run and that gave him the bronze.