White, the biggest name in the extreme sport, pulled out of the
slopestyle on Wednesday to concentrate on his halfpipe title
defense, citing safety concerns after jamming his hand in practice
on the "intimidating" course earlier in the week.
In an event which borrows some of its tricks and attitude from
skateboarding, it was little surprise that the twice Olympic
halfpipe champion came in for some trash-talk from his fellow
Canadians Max Parrot and Sebastien Toutant led the way with tweets
suggesting American White had pulled out because he was scared not
of injury but of losing.
"Mr. White... It's easy to find excuses to pull out of a contest
when you think you can't win...," read Toutant's tweet.
While Parrot stood by his comment, Toutant later deleted his message
and said it had been misinterpreted.
"I posted what I have to say," he told reporters after finishing
third in Thursday's first heat to book himself a place in the final.
"I deleted the tweet because some people took it the wrong way.
"I wasn't even hating on Shaun at all, I was just saying it's a
bummer because he's the rider that everyone says is the best.
"He's the one everyone wants the chance to compete against and prove
that you could do better. I'm kind of sad that he decided to pull
out, that's all I wanted to say."
His mood was reflected by most of the riders on a brilliant sunny
morning at the Rhosa Khutor Extreme Park, even if some were keen to
point out the American would have had his work cut out to win gold.
"He's a good rider for sure in slopestyle but he's not the best,"
said Finn Peetu Piiroinen, who was second in the first heat. "He's
the best rider in halfpipe, if he lands his jumps, but not in
As for safety, the competitors were largely happy with the course.
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Despite what looks to the layman like a terrifying descent down the
mountain along rails and over jumps that send the snowboarders
twisting high into the air, Jamie Nicholls said alterations over the
last few days had created a "perfect" run.
"There's been a few changes to the course and now it's working
really well. You can tell by the standard of riding that's going
off. It's sunny, so what more can you ask for?" said the Briton, who
finished fourth to also take a final spot.
"I didn't think it was dangerous, you just had to get used to it. If
we all come to an agreement that something needs changing, that's
what happens. It's the same at every contest."
Piiroinen suggested the jumps might be a problem "for the girls" but
would have liked to have been able to get even greater height from
"If we want to see more triples, you want to see more pop in it," he
said. "I like the big jumps, that's what I was hoping for."
In practice on the course in its original state on Monday, Norwegian
Torstein Horgmo broke his collarbone in a crash which ruled the
triple X Games Big Air gold medalist out of the Games.
There were no major injuries reported in the first two heats,
although Australian Scotty James was left sore after a heavy fall on
his first run.
"I was really embarrassed, I actually hurt my 'man parts' real bad
and I was in a lot of pain, and I didn't really know where to put my
hands," he said.
Toutant said danger was all just part and parcel of slopestyle
snowboarding events, and he was confident White's absence would not
damage the profile event.
"If you enter any slopestyle contest and think it's not going to be
dangerous, you should find another sport," Toutant added.
"There's a lot of wow factor. I think a lot of people will be
watching the slopestyle even if Shaun's not in it."
(Editing by Julian Linden)
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