News / Arts & Entertainment

White's Withdrawal from Olympic Snowboarding Event Highlights Risks

Shaun White of the United States takes a jump during a Snowboard Slopestyle training session at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Feb. 4, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Shaun White of the United States takes a jump during a Snowboard Slopestyle training session at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Feb. 4, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Reuters
With their baggy pants and bandanas, snowboarders are among the coolest competitors at the Winter Olympics, whipping the spectators into a frenzy of excitement with their gravity-defying aerial tricks.

The daredevil stunts have made them compulsive viewing for a new generation of thrill seekers wanting to push the boundaries of the Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger).

When everything goes right and they land safely, there are high-fives and fist-pumps all around as the crowds whoop and holler and yell for more.

But when it goes wrong, it can go badly wrong. Behind all the bravado and cockiness is the chilling realization that snowboarders risk life and limb every time they hurl themselves down the mountain.

On Wednesday, Shaun White, snowboarding's biggest star, announced he was pulling out of the slopestyle, one of two events he had entered in Sochi, because he feared the course was too dangerous.

The previous day, White fell during training and hurt his wrist. The American said he pulled out to concentrate on the halfpipe, which he won at the two previous Olympics, but his withdrawal highlighted the real dangers of extreme winter sports.

On Monday, Norwegian Torstein Horgmo also fell in training and broke his collarbone, ruling him of the Games, though he could count himself among the lucky ones.

In 2009, Kevin Pearce, one of White's great rivals, was critically injured when he slammed his head on the ice while training in Utah. He spent six days in a coma and months recovering from his brain injuries but was lucky to live.

In January 2012, Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke, a four-times gold medalist at the X-Games, died from injuries she suffered when she hit her head in a fall while training in Utah.

Less than two months later, another Canadian, Nik Zoricic, died from head injuries at a ski cross race in Switzerland.

Noone is exempt from injuries. Last month, White fell and hit his head in a warm-up competition, in the latest in a series of injuries he has sustained.

In 2004, White spent six months in rehabilitation after coming back too soon from knee surgery. In 2009, he chipped a bone in his ankle and missed most of the season.

Common Injury

Sweden's Niklas Mattsson finishes his first run during men's snowboard slopestyle qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Feb. 6, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.Sweden's Niklas Mattsson finishes his first run during men's snowboard slopestyle qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Feb. 6, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
x
Sweden's Niklas Mattsson finishes his first run during men's snowboard slopestyle qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Feb. 6, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Sweden's Niklas Mattsson finishes his first run during men's snowboard slopestyle qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Feb. 6, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Even with helmets, concussions are an increasingly common injury in snowboarding where competitors soar high into the air before attempting to land on a rock-hard, icy slope.

At the 2009 Winter X Games, America's Gretchen Bleiler, a silver medalist at the 2006 Olympics, was concussed after smacking her head on the ice.

Last year, at a U.S. Olympic Committee summit in Utah, she spoke about the tiny margin of error that confronts elite snowboarders.

"It's all about walking a fine line," she said. "You are pushing yourself everyday to make sure you are at the top but not going over the other side. It is a razor sharp edge."

Bleiler was one of the favorites to win the women's halfpipe in Vancouver but fell in both her runs and missed out of the medals.

The gold went to Australia's Torah Bright, who flashed a big cheesy smile as the medal was draped around her neck, then revealed how she competed with a thumping headache from an early concussion.

Scotty Lago won a bronze medal in Vancouver in halfpipe. A few months earlier, he was concussed after a heavy fall in New Zealand, which went viral on Youtube.

"That is one of the most challenging things, walking the line between doing the tricks you know how to do and are safe and pushing yourself," Lago said.

"Everyone can go put the work in the gym and go ride the mountain but you have to go out and do the stuff that is pushing the sport and stuff that is going to be next level and scary," he said. "It's all about going out doing those tricks and pretty much surviving and living to ride another day. I feel if you're not scaring yourself, you're kind of not doing it right."

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Paquito D'Rivera, who has won 12 Grammys, is celebrated both for his artistry in Latin jazz and his achievements as a classical composer. D'Rivera's latest project, “Jazz Meets the Classics,” was released this month. He joins us on the latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."