SOCHI, Russia — Shaun White saw the glassy sheen of the super-steep takeoff ramp and knew something bad was coming.
He fell and jammed his left wrist, adding another nagging injury to his long list of bumps and bruises while also entering his name on the growing list of athletes falling victim to a treacherous Olympic slopestyle course.
“A little intimidating,” he said of the course on Tuesday. “It’s been a challenge.”
Through two days of practice runs in the Russian mountains above Sochi, the course at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park has already taken out one of the favorites, Torstein Horgmo of Norway, who broke a collarbone while riding through the rails Monday.
On Tuesday, shortly after White’s minor injury, Marika Enne of Finland fell hard and hit her head at the end of her run. She was taken off the course on a stretcher with a concussion.
Slopestyle qualifying begins Thursday — the day before the Opening Ceremony — with White trying to win the first of two gold medals at this year’s Olympics. His attempt at a third straight title on the halfpipe is set for next Tuesday.
First, though, he must emerge unscathed from a slopestyle course that is taking its toll on some of the world’s best riders.
“It’s frustrating to see it,” White said. “It puts a damper on the whole mood and it’s kind of like you’re getting ready to do a big trick and you see something like that. Intimidating. Unfortunate. I’m hoping the builders can make some changes and the course has a little more of a friendly vibe. But I can’t change the course. Just doing the best I can.”
Rider after rider said the same thing.
McRib is ready
Two weeks ago, Mark McMorris welcomed the role of gold medal favorite.
One nasty fall — and the broken rib that came along with it — has given the Canadian snowboarder a newfound perspective with Olympic slopestyle qualifying looming Thursday.
“I think it took a lot of stress away because I stopped thinking about competing and everything else,” McMorris said. “I just focused on myself and healing and making sure I was going to be ready. I feel less stress, actually.”
And ultimately, busted rib or no busted rib, once McMorris pulls his bib number over his Olympic uniform, it’s back to the business of being the best in the business.
“I still have the same intentions here and I think everyone still has the same intentions for me,” said the 20-year-old, who has recently been dubbed “McRib” on Twitter.
Luge track tested
Describing the ice as smooth, fast and by all accounts perfectly safe, luge athletes took their first formal training runs of the Olympics on Tuesday.
Some sliders took as many as three trips down the track, part of systematic training system where they have the opportunity to acclimate to the course by sliding from lower start positions. That particular method of course-learning has been in place for several years, predating the crash that took the life of a Georgian luger hours before the start of the Vancouver Games in 2010.