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 Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”