Billy's medal hopes boosted at Sochi

BILLY MORGAN

BILLY MORGAN

First published in Sport

United States snowboarder Shaun White has elected to skip the Olympic slopestyle event in Sochi in order to focus on the halfpipe discipline - boosting Billy Morgan's medal hopes.

The reigning two-time Olympic halfpipe champion was seeking to extend his dominance in the debuting slopestyle event, which gets under way on Thursday with the qualifiers.

However, the 27-year-old admitted on Tuesday that he found the controversial Rosa Khutor Extreme Park "intimidating" and "a challenge" and added that he had twisted his wrist in practice.

Therefore, White has taken the decision to skip the event in order to become a three-time gold medallist in the halfpipe.

"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 on www.ussnowboarding.com.

"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 part of."

White's absence is a boost to British competitors Jamie Nicholls and Billy Morgan, who is a genuine medal prospect.

Thirteen-time Winter X Games gold medallist White was not in an optimistic mood on Tuesday, with his fears over the course exacerbated by Norway's Torstein Horgmo pulling out of the Games after breaking his collarbone following a fall on Monday.

The American said: "It's intimidating. Any time you show up to a course you have to learn the speed, the distance from the jumps and what the rails are like. It's been a challenge.

"It's always disappointing when you see a fellow rider go down and is unable to compete. It's definitely intimidating when you've got to run the same course right after him."

US Snowboarding confirmed it would not be looking to make a late replacement following White's withdrawal.

Patrick Sandusky, chief communications and public affairs officer of the United States Olympic Committee: "Shaun is a professional and certainly knows what's best for his performance.

"We support the athletic decisions of our athletes and look forward to watching the entire US team perform."

Jeremy Forster, snowboarding and freeskiing director of the US Ski and Snowboard Association, added: "Shaun is the consummate professional and has made a sound athletic decision.

"We anticipate an outstanding slopestyle debut on Saturday but also respect the importance to Shaun to keep his focus on winning a third halfpipe gold."

White's absence is a boost to British competitors Jamie Nicholls and Billy Morgan, who is a genuine medal prospect.

Thirteen-time Winter X Games gold medallist White was not in an optimistic mood on Tuesday, with his fears over the course exacerbated by Norway's Torstein Horgmo pulling out of the Games after breaking his collarbone following a fall on Monday.

The American said: "It's intimidating. Any time you show up to a course you have to learn the speed, the distance from the jumps and what the rails are like. It's been a challenge.

"It's always disappointing when you see a fellow rider go down and is unable to compete. It's definitely intimidating when you've got to run the same course right after him."

US Snowboarding confirmed it would not be looking to make a late replacement following White's withdrawal.

Patrick Sandusky, chief communications and public affairs officer of the United States Olympic Committee: "Shaun is a professional and certainly knows what's best for his performance.

"We support the athletic decisions of our athletes and look forward to watching the entire US team perform."

Jeremy Forster, snowboarding and freeskiing director of the US Ski and Snowboard Association, added: "Shaun is the consummate professional and has made a sound athletic decision.

"We anticipate an outstanding slopestyle debut on Saturday but also respect the importance to Shaun to keep his focus on winning a third halfpipe gold."

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