When White was asked about how he would deal with his schedule on Saturday (he would have competed in the slopestyle semifinals and finals on the same day as the first halfpipe practice), he fumbled and half-answered the question, talked in circles and then said he was still "mulling over what to do."
Moments after the news conference ended, White released a statement through one of his publicists to the "Today" show that he would be dropping out of slopestyle. U.S. Snowboarding confirmed the news via a release that had clearly been prepared earlier in the day, if not on Tuesday, despite the fact that it made a point of stating twice that White had made his decision "late in the day on Wednesday."
White's full statement: "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 halfpipe for Team USA. The difficult decision to forego 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 a part of. However, 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 Olympic goals on."
(A release like this takes much longer than 30 minutes to put together, especially considering it included quotes from USSA snowboarding and freeski director Jeremy Forster and USOC chief communications officer Patrick Sandusky.)
But it was surprising news nonetheless. I remember White once telling me his favorite thing is to show up to a halfpipe or slopestyle competition when the weather is bad, or the pipe is cut poorly, or everyone is complaining about the course -- because that's when he shines. Everyone has to ride the same course and drop into the same pipe, and he knows he is the best rider on any day, no matter the conditions. He said he smiles knowing he is in a better place mentally than everyone else. In his mind, in those moments, he has already won.
Which makes it hard to believe White is pulling out of slopestyle because he is fearful of the course. Shaun White wins. And in his mind, in halfpipe, he's already won. In slopestyle, he simply chose not to take the risk.