BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. (AP) — Shaun White found himself on the “Road to Couchi” on Sunday — not exactly where he wanted to be with a key Olympic qualifying event going on outside.
The world’s most decorated snowboarder pulled out of the slopestyle final at the Dew Tour so he could rest his left ankle — the one he twisted during a fall on the halfpipe the day before.
Both events are the first step on the “Road to Sochi,” the home of next year’s Olympics.
After hurting the ankle during his first run on the halfpipe Saturday, White took a more-timid-than-usual second run. He finished second and limped off the mountain but said the injury wasn’t serious.
Then, about 30 minutes before he was scheduled to run Sunday, White posted a picture on his Facebook account of him sitting on the couch with his ankle in a bucket of ice. His message: “#RoadtoCouchi had to pull out of Dew Tour slopestyle finals because of ankle sprain from superpipe.”
White’s publicist didn’t have any more details on the injury, though the best guess is that he’s resting it for next week’s qualifier in Copper Mountain, which now becomes more critical.
Watching from the couch, White got a good look at what’s waiting for him if he does make it to Russia. Notably, Canadian Mark McMorris, winner of the last two Winter X Games, who landed a high-flying “backside triple cork 1440” — three revolutions tucked into two flips off one of the big jumps. It’s considered the must-have trick, at least for those thinking about Olympic gold.
“It’s a huge confidence builder. I can’t complain,” McMorris said. “You ask to start your season on a positive note and here it is.”
McMorris had the contest virtually wrapped up with a score of 95 after his first run, but tried the tougher trick on the second trip down the mountain. Stuck it. And scored a 97.8.
Is he the clear favorite heading into Sochi?
“You tell me, dog,” he replied.
McMorris led a 1-2-4 finish for Canada, which has realistic hopes of owning the podium in Olympic slopestyle, one of the events making its debut at the 2014 Games.
Chas Guldemond was the top American finisher, in fifth place — a result that won’t hurt White.
Up to three American men can make the Olympics in slopestyle, with the first criteria being a top-4 finish in one of five qualifying events.
Making things trickier for White, however, is an international requirement that any Olympian also have a top-30 showing and at least 50 points in a World Cup event. White doesn’t have that, but could get it next week in Copper Mountain, where the event doubles as a World Cup contest.
But if he can’t compete next week, the entire process becomes more difficult — it would include a trip to Quebec in January — which could explain why the two-time Olympic halfpipe champion played things very conservatively this weekend.
McMorris said he would welcome White’s return. Slopestyle has belonged to the Canadian over the last two years, but White hasn’t been much of a challenge during that span — dealing with balky ankles while he also tries to ramp up his game for the new Olympic event.
“You never want to see anyone get hurt,” McMorris said. “Hopefully, he’ll be better for Copper.”
– By Eddie Pells, AP National Writer
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