Double US Olympic champion Shaun White admitted yesterday that Sochi’s daunting slopestyle course, which has already claimed two injury victims, presented an “intimidating” challenge.
He was speaking after he fell and dinged his left wrist during training on a ramp leading to one of the jumps on the treacherous course.
White said the wrist injury should not be a problem for the slopestyle contest, which begins tomorrow — the day before the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony.
However, White, the 27-year-old X Games pioneer, who has undergone a succession of knee and ankle injuries, insisted that the spectacular sport was full of dangers.
“It’s intimidating. You know any time you show up to a course you have to learn the speed, the distance from the jumps and what the rails are like. It’s been a challenge,” White said.
“Any time you step out on a course there’s a certain amount of danger, there’s a certain element of risk you put yourself in for. Maybe this course might have a little bit more than others, but we’re trying to figure it out. We’re trying to get through the course, be safe and have a great Olympics,” he added.
White, the halfpipe champion in Turin in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010, is looking for a record third gold in the discipline, as well as hoping to capture the inaugural slopestyle title.
However, the sport in which competitors perform on a slope featuring various forms of obstacles — rails, quarterpipes and jumps — has been blasted as too dangerous by a succession of athletes.
Finnish snowboarder Marika Enne yesterday became the second crash victim of the course.
The 21-year-old Enne crash-landed on the final jump, hitting the snow and tumbling forward on a course widely condemned as too dangerous.
She completed her run, but was then carried away on a stretcher.
“She hit her head,” Finland team coach Mats Lindfors said.
On Monday, Norway’s Torstein Horgmo, who had been a gold medal favorite, was ruled out of the Olympics after suffering a broken collar bone following a spectacular crash.
The 26-year-old crashed on the rail feature of the slopestyle run at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, an accident which forced course builders to make radical changes to some of the jumps overnight.
The alterations followed a meeting of snowboarders in the aftermath of Horgmo’s crash.
Australia’s defending halfpipe champion, Torah Bright, tweeted a photograph of the athletes meeting on the course.
“Riders discussing much needed changes to slope style. Changes have been made overnight. Heading up now to check it!” wrote Bright, who is chasing three golds at the Olympics.
White said he felt sympathy for Horgmo.
“It’s always disappointing when you see a fellow rider go down and is unable to compete. It’s definitely intimidating when you’ve got to run the same course right after him,” he added.