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Course too dangerous for US star White

By AAP .
6 February 2014 03:51PM EST

THE world's most decorated snowboarder finally decided the supersized slopestyle course at Sochi was too much of a gamble, but others say concerns about the course are overblown.

Shaun White pulled out of the new Olympic event on Wednesday, saying that after much deliberation he will bypass a chance at winning two gold medals and concentrate on the halfpipe, where he'll have a chance to win his third straight title next week.

"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 a statement.

The US star's decision was a stunner that dealt yet another blow to the still-to-start Winter Games.

White isn't leaving, but his departure from an event that was, in effect, introduced to take advantage of his star power certainly can't make the folks at the International Olympic Committee or US broadcaster NBC too happy.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams played down the idea the course was too dangerous.

"I don't think that's an issue," he said. "A lot of the athletes have said they're very happy, they like the venue."

Slopestyle qualifying starts on Thursday, the day before the opening ceremony.

Snowboarding's newest and most-hyped Olympic event is a judged sport - a speed-packed trip down the mountain, filled with rails, bumps and, most notably, steeply angled jumps that allow riders to flip two, sometimes three times, before landing.

White hurt his wrist on one of the takeoff ramps, which were built "kind of obnoxiously tall", according to one top rider, Canadian Mark McMorris.

He deemed his latest injury as nothing serious, but he said there were serious issues with the slopestyle course.

Reaction to White's decision came from several corners, not all of it positive.

"Mr White ... It's easy to find excuses to pull out of a contest when you think you can't win," said Canadian rider Sebastian Toutant in a tweet that was later deleted.

Many riders said the dangers of the course were being overblown. "There's no way this course is too dangerous," American Sage Kotsenburg said.

But White certainly wasn't alone in questioning the course.

Australian Torah Bright, the defending women's halfpipe champion who is trying to compete in three events this year - halfpipe, slopestyle and a racer's version called snowboardcross - has also described an overly treacherous few days of training.

"We're here as the world's best snowboarders," she said. "Too bad we don't have a world-class course. The craftsmanship doesn't match the world-class athletes that are here."

Australian snowboarder Alex (Chumpy) Pullin said: "I guess juggling with a few different events has always got to be a big task especially when the top level of our sports have really progressed so far in the past 10 years."

"I hope he's all good and if that's his decision I am sure that is what he is comfortable with and he'll be looking to do his thing in the halfpipe just the same."

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