KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Shaun White's quest for two golds in one Olympics ended Wednesday.
Less than 24 hours before he was slated to compete here, the American snowboarder announced on NBC's TODAY that he would not compete in slopestyle as he had previously planned. The two-time defending gold medalist in the halfpipe, White is seeking to become the first American man to win an event in three consecutive Winter Olympics.
"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," White said in a statement shared exclusively with TODAY. "The difficult decision to forego 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 a part being a part of."
SLOPESTYLE: White, others speak of injury risk
White cited continuing concerns about the course in his reason to preserve himself for the halfpipe. As is custom with most snowboarding events, riders met with course officials after testing it out. Among their requests was waxing the rails and to adjust the landing on at least one jump.
"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 said in his statement.
White was the only American to even attempt to make both teams and struggled with injuries throughout qualifying for the U.S team. A sprained ankle he suffered in the halfpipe forced him to pull out of the first slopestyle qualifier.
White also injured his shoulder in a crash he took on the slopestyle course in the final week of qualifying. He jammed his wrist in practice here, but said the severity of the injury was "blown out of proportion."
One of White's competitors questions if White pulled out because of injury concerns or because he wasn't favored to win a medal.
Canadian Sebastien Toutant has two X Games gold medals in slopestyle. Before White's announcement, Toutant talked about sharing the course with a snowboarding legend, and said he wasn't more afraid of White than anyone else. He spoke confidently about the chances for him and his teammates.
"The Canadians – we are the guys to beat," Toutant said. "I think everyone here has a chance to win it. That's the beauty of slopestyle, everyone has the tricks to win it. It's all going to come down to who can stay on their feet."
Maxence Parrot, also a member of the Canadian snowboard team, chimed in with a tweet he has since deleted.