Shaun White hurt in Olympic qualifier practice
WANAKA, New Zealand -- Shaun White injured his ankle practicing for the FIS World Cup slopestyle competition at the Winter Games NZ in Cardrona, New Zealand, on Sunday, forcing him to withdraw from the event.
White has not yet met the minimum requirements for Olympic qualification for slopestyle, which include, among other things, a top-30 finish in a World Cup event.
The point was rendered moot on Monday, however, when the men's slopestyle event was canceled due to weather. Heavy fog and wind has plagued competition since Friday, which is scheduled to run throughout the week, causing delays and modifications to the freeski halfpipe finals, as well as qualification and practice cancellations for snowboard slopestyle.
Because two women's World Cup events have been canceled during the qualification period so far, compared to just one for the men, organizers made the women's event a priority. Riders tried to capitalize on temporary moments of fog clearing to run two qualifying heats and a final late Sunday afternoon.
X Games slopestyle gold medalists Jamie Anderson and Jenny Jones took the first and second spots on the podium, respectively, followed by Cheryl Maas in third.
"The weather's been really challenging all week. It's pretty foggy and hard to see. Everyone's trying to do their best," said Anderson. "For me, this event is mostly to keep my points high. ... We're focusing on our team qualifiers in the U.S. in December."
White has decided to head home to rest his ankle, and will not be competing in the halfpipe World Cup event taking place later this week.
"He decided it was better to be safe and take care of himself," said Mike Jankowski, head coach for the U.S. Snowboard and Freeski teams. "He's got to get himself rested up and ready for the next chapter in the process [of Olympic qualification]."
The pressure is now on for White, who intends to represent his country in both halfpipe and slopestyle at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in February. At this moment, he has only met the qualification requirements to be considered for the halfpipe team. But Jankowski is confident White will be in the mix for the slopestyle team selection as well.
"He'll get his Top 30 at Copper," said Jankowski, referring to the next World Cup slopestyle competition on the FIS calendar, which will also double as one of the qualifying events for the U.S. Olympic team.
"There is also the Stoneham World Cup, which is in January," added Jankowski. "It conflicts with one of the U.S. qualifying events, but riders could still get a top 30 at Stoneham and do the other U.S. qualifiers and still make the U.S. team. ... Of course, if you had to wait until Stoneham to do it, that is very, very last minute. But somebody like Shaun -- you can't put anything past him."
The U.S. will be sending three men and two women to compete in slopestyle as the event makes its debut in Sochi in 2014. Qualification for the U.S. Olympic snowboarding team starts Dec. 16, with the Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colo., followed by the Grand Prix at Northstar, Calif., Jan. 6 - 12, and Mammoth Mountain Jan. 14-19. The final U.S. team-roster announcement will be made in Mammoth at the conclusion of the contest.