White's withdrawal highlights risks

Wed Feb 5, 2014 10:54am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Julian Linden

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - With their baggy pants and bandanas, snowboarders are among the coolest competitors at the Winter Olympics, whipping the spectators into a frenzy of excitement with their gravity-defying aerial tricks.

The daredevil stunts have made them compulsive viewing for a new generation of thrill seekers wanting to push the boundaries of the Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger).

When everything goes right and they land safely, there are high-fives and fist-pumps all around as the crowds whoop and holler and yell for more.

But when it goes wrong, it can go badly wrong. Behind all the bravado and cockiness is the chilling realization that snowboarders risk life and limb every time they hurl themselves down the mountain.

On Wednesday, Shaun White, snowboarding's biggest star, announced he was pulling out of the slopestyle, one of two events he had entered in Sochi, because he feared the course was too dangerous.

The previous day, White fell during training and hurt his wrist. The American said he pulled out to concentrate on the halfpipe, which he won at the two previous Olympics, but his withdrawal highlighted the real dangers of extreme winter sports.

On Monday, Norwegian Torstein Horgmo also fell in training and broke his collarbone, ruling him of the Games, though he could count himself among the lucky ones.

In 2009, Kevin Pearce, one of White's great rivals, was critically injured when he slammed his head on the ice while training in Utah.   Continued...

Swedish skier Henrik Harlaut goes off a jump during slopestyle skiing training at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Rosa Khutor February 5, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake