When two-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White announced he wouldn’t be competing in the Dew Tour slopestyle finals last weekend because of an ankle injury suffered during the half-pipe competition, his ankle was on its way to becoming as famous as downhill skier and fellow Olympian Lindsey Vonn’s surgically reconstructed knee — reinjured in training in November. White’s injury continued to be a concern with the news earlier in the week that he was opting out of the second Olympic half-pipe qualifier at Copper.
But ask White and he’ll tell you, it was just part of the plan.
“I feel great. The ankle’s great. I needed the time off,” White said after his second slopestyle run in Thursday’s Sprint U.S. Grand Prix qualifying round. “Best call ever.”
Working toward qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team in both half-pipe and slopestyle, White decided to rest his ankle and focus solely on slopestyle this week. With the Grand Prix doubling as a World Cup event, results in the slopestyle competition are essential to White’s road to the Olympics in two disciplines.
Having focused solely on half-pipe the last few years, White needed to finish inside the top 30 in a World Cup competition to meet Olympic qualification standards, in addition to top finishes in the five U.S. qualifiers.
“I’d always planned on not doing half-pipe,” he said of the decision, “because I needed to get a top 30 and I needed to get a top finish in slope.”
White took care of the first part Thursday qualifying for Saturday’s slopestyle finals with a 79 in his first run followed by an 85.66.
“It was great,” he said when asked about his second run. “The first one was great, too. I’ve never aimed for top 30 before; it kind of freaked me out. I’m normally trying to just win. That pressure out of the way with the first run, I was able to lay down a much better second run.”
If White can secure a podium finish in slopestyle this weekend, he will be well on his way to qualifying for both slope and half-pipe with three selection events remaining.
He already owns a podium spot in the half-pipe, after finishing No. 2 at the Dew Tour.
Snowboard slopestyle finals are scheduled for Sunday at 11 a.m.