News item: Shaun White will miss the Olympics debut of snowboard slopestyle at the Sochi Games in Russia. White, 27, withdrew from the event Wednesday, a day after falling and jamming his wrist on a practice run. Many have criticized the course as being too dangerous and White implied on his Facebook page that he doesn’t want to risk his chance of winning a third consecutive Olympic gold medal in the halfpipe competition. (No American man has won the same event at three consecutive Winter Olympics.)
Reaction: This is an unpopular decision, but it’s Shaun White’s decision and one he obviously thought out carefully. It’s unfortunate because it diminishes the event, especially after so much hype, leaving it without snowboarding’s biggest star, and seemingly providing Canada’s Mark McMorris with a much easier path to victory.
White on Wedesday morning was being bashed on social media by other snowboarders and fans. Example (since deleted from Twitter), from snowboarder Sebastien Toutant: "Mr. White... It's easy to find excuses to pull out of a contest when you think you can't win..."
Is the criticism warranted? Probably to an extent. When an athlete commits to something of this magnitude, he or she should stay committed. Other snowboarders would have loved to have been in White's boots.
However, this course has fallen under criticism and White, who arrived in Sochi with plenty of dings, clearly is not comfortable trying to negotiate its daunting layout. If an athlete is not confident on a fast course with monstrous kickers, that’s a recipe for disaster. (See a POV run-through on the course, posted below.)
However, if White is pulling out just because he thinks he can't make the podium, he ought to be criticized for being selfish at the very least.
Veteran X Games commentator Sal Masekela tweeted, “Not surprised that Shaun White has dropped from Slopestyle. In my opinion, a successful 3rd gold medal in pipe cements his legacy.”
It will cement his legacy, but pulling out without a perfectly good reason–and only he knows the real reason–gives Shaun White critics more reason to dislike him.
To be sure, in hindsight, it would have been better for everyone if White had just skipped slopestyle in the first place.
–Top image shows part of a slopestyle course that has been criticized by some snowboarders as being too dangerous. Credit: FIS Freestyle Skiing. Video is a POV showing a run-through on the slopestyle course