White out of slopestyle as Sochi opening nears
By Karolos Grohmann
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - The Sochi Olympics were dealt a blow two days before the opening ceremony when American snowboarding star Shaun White pulled out of the slopestyle event due to safety concerns, highlighting the real dangers athletes face in extreme winter sports.
The news came as organizers scramble to deal with teething problems including accommodation issues and an outcry over the fate of stray animals being rounded up in Sochi.
Double Olympic champion White, one of the biggest drawcards of Russia's first winter Olympics and among the world's best known winter sports athletes, said on Wednesday he did not want to risk his chances of winning a third halfpipe gold medal.
White's decision came after Norwegian Torstein Horgmo, another medal contender and triple X Games gold medalist, broke his collarbone in a crash on the course on Monday and was ruled out of the Games.
The course was then modified but the changes did not go far enough to keep White in the competition.
The American, who hurt his wrist on Tuesday after falling on a course he described as "intimidating", said it was not worth the risk.
"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 told NBC.
With the focus set to shift to sports on Friday, the International Olympic Committee cast its eyes past the most expensive Games ever staged to look for ways of revamping the global sporting spectacular. Continued...