Shaun White withdraws from slopestyle in Sochi

12:01 PM, Feb 5, 2014   |    comments
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Shaun White during a training session on the hill at the second jump at Extreme Park in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, on Tuesday. (Photo: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports)



KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (USA TODAY) -- Shaun White's quest for two golds in one Olympics ended Wednesday.

Less than 24 hours before he was slated to compete here, the American snowboarder announced on NBC's TODAY that he would not compete in slopestyle as he had previously planned. The two-time defending gold medalist in the halfpipe, White is seeking to become the first American man to win an event in three consecutive Winter Olympics.

"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 said in a statement shared exclusively with 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."

SLOPESTYLE: White, others speak of injury risk

White was the only American to even attempt to make both teams and struggled with injuries throughout qualifying for the U.S team. A sprained ankle he suffered in the halfpipe forced him to pull out of the first slopestyle qualifier.

White also injured his shoulder in a crash he took on the slopestyle course in the final week of qualifying. He jammed his wrist in practice here but said the severity of the injury was "blown out of proportion."

"I'm feeling healthy," he said in a news conference here around an hour before making the announcement. "Definitely concerns about the course. It's been interesting to see how it's developed and changed over the past few days. I guess the big question is if it will continue to change."

He was not favored to win gold in the event and faced a challenge to even medal. Canadian Mark McMorris remains the gold medal favorite despite breaking a rib at the X Games last month. Several other Canadians and Norwegians are expected to challenge for a spot on the podium.

White was once dominant in the event, winning eight X Games medals, before stepping away to focus on halfpipe for the Olympics. When he returned to competition, he found how far the sport had progressed in his absence.

Led by McMorris and Norwegian Torstein Horgmo, the triple cork became the must-have move to compete for a spot on the podium. Horgmo was considered a medal favorite but will not compete here after breaking his collarbone in training Monday.

With Horgmo out, Canadian Maxence Parrot and Norwegian Stale Sandbech remain strong medal contenders.

In winning X Games gold this year, Parrot became the first rider to land two triple corks in a run. Although he had worked on them in practice, White has yet to cleanly land a triple cork in competition.

"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 in his statement.

Snowboarding does not allow for alternate riders, so another American will not compete in the event. The qualification round is scheduled for Thursday morning.

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