SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - An unrepentant Shaun White said he had no regrets about pulling out of the inaugural slopestyle snowboarding event at the Sochi Olympics despite being labelled a coward then seeing his American team mate Sage Kotsenburg win the gold medal.
White was embroiled in a social media storm after he denounced the slopestyle course as dangerous and withdrew from the slopestyle to focus on the defence of his halfpipe title, which he won at the previous two Winter Olympics.
Several of White’s competitors took to Facebook and Twitter to poke fun at him for quitting the daredevil event, suggesting that he only threw in the towel because he was scared of losing.
“I‘m really happy with my decision,” the Californian told reporters after training at the halfpipe on Saturday.
“I have bumps and bruises over the course of the season that I haven’t had before.”
While White was rehearsing some of the moves he hopes will land him a third successive gold medal in the halfpipe, his countryman Kotsenburg won the slopestyle gold with a fearless run down the intimidating obstacle course.
White is the overwhelming favourite to win the halfpipe but knows the pressure on him to succeed will only intensify after he quit the slopestyle, one of the new and contemporary events on the Olympic programme.
“I feel pressure all the time. I‘m trying not to think about it too much,” he said.
“It’s not more pressure than I put on myself. I expect the best out of myself, always.”
While critical of the slopestyle course after he fell in training, White was more complimentary about the halfpipe although he agreed with some of his rivals that it was slightly steeper than normal.
“The pipe is interesting. It has the potential to be amazing,” he said.
”There were some first-day jitters - not for me, but for the pipe. This new snow turns into a sandy consistency but texturised.
“It has a little too much vert, but that’s an easy fix, it’s better that it’s over than under. Under’s not good. I‘m happy. I think it’s going to be great.”
Already one of the most successful and recognisable names in Winter sports, White has promised something special for Sochi.
In December, he released a tantalising video of one of his new stunts - a frontside double-cork 1440 - in which he rotates four times while doing two front flips.
He performed it in competition last month and has hinted that he may unleash the mind-boggling move in Russia.
“There’s always pressure and that’s what motivates me to do bigger tricks and better tricks,” he said.
Reporting by Julian Linden, editing by Ed Osmond