Snowboarding legend Shaun White has decided to bow out of the slopestyle event for the 2014 Olympic Games. Reigning X Games gold medalist in the event, Max Parrot, thinks he knows why White made the decision:
Shaun White pulls out of Olympic slopestyle; ‘he’s scared,’ says Max Parrot http://t.co/fKguAh9gKE— Steve McAllister (@yahoomac) February 5, 2014
White has his own take (imagine that) on why he backed out. On his Facebook page, White passed along this message regarding his decision to drop the event:
After much deliberation with my team, I have made the decision to focus solely on trying to bring home the third straight gold medal in halfpipe for Team USA. I know my fans will have my back on this difficult decision. Thanks for the continued support.
White's withdrawal from this event, as it makes its Olympic debut, is not overly shocking. It is on the half-pipe where White has made his legend. And although he's had success at slopestyle, he was not the favorite to take home Olympic gold.
Shaun White preemptively throws in the towel for the event he wasn't guaranteed the gold, citing course dangers. http://t.co/rbieYzWjti— Keenan Mayo (@wkeenan_mayo) February 5, 2014
On top of that, the course was taking a serious toll on his body:
In that sense, White is pulling out of this event due to fear, and he isn't alone in finding the course treacherous. The course has not been getting good early marks from riders, and the injuries have been mounting:
Watch and read about concerns over the Olympic slopestyle course, with one snowboarder now out with an injury: http://t.co/G259sqnGgR— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) February 3, 2014
Although changes have been made, this certainly doesn't paint a picture of confidence about the course:
"It's like jumping out of a building," a Canadian snowboarder said of slopestyle course Shaun White opted out of http://t.co/4VNC3kEy14— Post Sports (@PostSports) February 5, 2014
Still, it wasn't the course or fear of injury that led to Parrot calling White scared. Yahoo's Stephanie Myles passed along Parrot's full quote, which was delivered in a tweet and has since been deleted: "Shaun knows he won't be able to win the slopes, thats why he pulled out. He's scared!"
Well, them's fighting words! They are also fantastic.
Slopestyle is an event on the rise, but it is still well behind the half-pipe in terms of popularity. One of the best ways to give any sport a boost in mass appeal is to have a rivalry that makes people care. And what better way to build up the appeal of a rivalry than for one top competitor to call another a chicken.
Of course, all of this doesn't hurt the fame of Max Parrot. Parrot won two golds at the past X Games, yet still has nowhere near the fame of White.
A quick scan of Twitter highlights the fame discrepancy:
and suddenly Max Parrot is famous. Say thank you to Shaun White— Mike Toolbox McCarty (@michaelTmccarty) February 5, 2014
Yes, there is no doubt Parrot is going to gain fame from piggybacking on White, but that would all be hollow if Parrot wasn't on a run that makes it fair to call him the best snowboarder in the world.
Now, I have no idea how true Parrot's criticism of White is or how much truth is in White's reasoning for stepping out of the event. Honestly, I don't care.
What I care about is that the next time White does attempt slopestyle, he will do so against a person who proclaimed White was scared to face him.
That sets the stage for a wonderful and drama-filled showdown.
Even if that showdown never materializes, the world is now a little more interested in slopestyle and Parrot than it was before he made these comments.