Sochi shock as half-pipe champion Shaun White pulls out

Australia's Olympic snowboard champion Torah Bright has cheekily said American counterpart Shaun White pulled out of the slopestyle competition because of fear - of her teammate Scotty James.

White - the reigning snowboard half-pipe champion better known as ''the Flying Tomato'' - stunned the Sochi Games on Wednesday when he said he was withdrawing from slopestyle.

He had voiced concerns this week about the condition and difficulty of the slopestyle course during training runs.

''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 half-pipe for Team USA,'' White said in a statement on the website of the US Ski and Snowboard Association.

''The difficult decision to forgo 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.''

His decision came a day after Bright had criticised Games organisers for failing to use the best builder of slopestyle courses.

Sochi's slopestyle course this week already ended the campaign of gold medal favourite Torstein Horgmo, of Norway. The first snowboarder to land a triple cork (three off-axis flips and four full rotations), Horgmo crashed while attempting a difficult trick on the rails near the top of the course in Monday's opening training session and broke his collarbone.

On Tuesday, Finland's Merika Enne injured her left ankle in a crash, and White, 27, jammed his left wrist in an accident. White called it ''intimidating''.

And Sebastien Toutant, of Canada, told the Olympic News Service: ''It's like jumping out of a building.''

Slopestyle is one of two new snowboard events at Sochi 2014. White has been slopestyle champion five times at the X Games.

But Bright, when asked by Fairfax Media why she believed White had withdrawn, said the form already shown by James was the reason.

''I think Shaun White must've seen Scotty James riding and had to pull out,'' she said.

''Scotty's being riding that course really well. He's been doing his triples today, so I'm excited to see him go and get it.

''Shaun's a very competitive guy. It's true what he realised in his statement: it is self-preservation, he does want to go out and go for a win for a third time in the half-pipe. Maybe it's because he knows he can't win here in the slopestyle. He could be injured. Who knows? He's very scared of Scotty James.''

James shot to fame at the Vauncouver Olympics four years ago when injury prompted his selection when he was just 15.

He will compete in qualifying for slopestyle on Thursday and men's half-pipe is on next Tuesday.

''I wouldn't say the course is dangerous,'' Bright said. ''It's just that the level of craftmanship doesn't match the level and calibre of riders here. What we do is dangerous, without a doubt. For us to be able to put on a show, we need to have the courses and jumps to do that.''

With Washington Post

This story Sochi shock as half-pipe champion Shaun White pulls out first appeared on WA Today.