Olympic Snowboarding 2014: Top Storylines Surrounding Competition in Sochi

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent IFebruary 6, 2014

Feb 4, 2014; Sochi, Rosa Khutor, RUS; USA snowboarder Shaun White during a training session on the hill at the 2nd jump at Extreme Park. Mandatory Credit: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports
Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 Winter Olympics are set to get underway from Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 6, with the snowboarding competition spanning the entire 16 days.

The action will begin with the slopestyle events before transitioning into half-pipe after the first weekend. The second weekend will ignite snowboarding cross competition before concluding with a pair of slalom events. 

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White highlights the list of competitors taking aim at the ultimate prize this winter, but was also the first to make headlines. 

Let's take a look at the top Olympic snowboarding storylines ahead of the opening ceremony. 


Shaun White Withdraws from Slopestyle

Feb 5, 2014; Krasnaya Polyana, RUSSIA; Shaun White speaks during the USA Snowboarding Halfpipe Press Conference at Gorki Media Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew P. Scott-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew P. Scott-USA TODAY Sports

In an effort to avoid injury and focus his attention on the half-pipe competition at the Winter Games, American snowboarding superstar Shaun White has withdrawn from the slopestyle competition in Sochi.

According to CNN.com, White announced his decision on Feb. 5, acknowledging that the slopestyle course "presented an 'intimidating' challenge":

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.

The difficult decision to forgo slopestyle is not one I take lightly as I know how much effort everyone has put into holding the slopestyle event for the first time in Olympic history, a history I had planned on being part of.

While White's decision was met with trash talk from a pair of Canadian slopestyle challengers, fellow American competitor Sage Kotsenburg backed up the move, per USA Today's Rachel Axon:

I feel like he's going to go huge in pipe now, it's going to be insane. He has so much more on his plate, I don't know, I wasn't really that shocked at all. The course is pretty challenging, and when you've got three medals at risk over at pipe, I'd probably do the same thing.

The 27-year-old White is set to compete in his third consecutive Winter Olympics and can cement his legacy with a third straight gold medal in the snowboarding half-pipe this February. 


Slopestyle Course Raising Concerns

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 06:  Course marshals prepare the jump in the Women's Slopestyle Qualification during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

With White confirming his withdrawal from the slopestyle event, many have begun questioning the quality and safety of the course.

According to Reuters, there have been several changes made to the course, but not enough to eliminate the concerns of some of the competition's female competitors. Czech Republic snowboarder Sarka Pancochova highlighted the height of the jumps as the biggest issue she and her fellow female athletes are facing heading into the Games:

"The big jumps are very big, especially for the girls. We are very little, we have 30kg difference to the guys. It's hard to get the speed you need. It's just a game, we have to figure it out."

Other competitors have complained about heavy landings, which put their knees and back at risk. However, with the athletes having met with officials to express their worries following the training session, the concerns don't appear to extend beyond the height of the jumps. 


Contenders Battling Injury

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 05: Ty Walker of the United States trains during Snowboard Slopestyle practice at the Extreme Park at Rosa Khutor Mountain ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 5, 2014 in Sochi, Russia  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Get
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

While White is nursing a wrist injury coming into the Winter Games, he isn't the only snowboarding contender looking to recover in time for key events.

According to Shawn Smith of NBCOlympics.com, American teenager Ty Walker banged up her knee, elbow and heel during a few recent practice runs:

The course is pretty big. Not a lot of girls were hitting the jumps and the rail section is hard to get used to. I taco-ed the donkey rail on the first feature twice and managed to smash my knee (first try) and elbow (second try) on it pretty hard on the way down.

Meanwhile, Canada's Mark McMorris is aiming to overcome a broken rib that he suffered at the Winter X Games back in January. But while McMorris will still be able to compete in Sochi, Norway's Torstein Horgmo is out after breaking his collarbone on the slopestyle course on Feb. 3.

As already mentioned, officials have made significant changes to the course after receiving feedback from some of the athletes early in the week. However, with several riders having injured themselves on this course and White having withdrawn from the competition, the course construction promises to remain a hot topic in Sochi. 


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