White heads back to halfpipe for a contest in Switzerland
Three-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White has made a last-minute decision to compete in a World Cup event in Switzerland later this week.
The 35-year-old White pulled out of the final of an Olympic qualifying event in Mammoth Mountain, California, last weekend, feeling lingering effects from COVID-19.
He is currently ranked 14th on the World Snowboarding Points List and is the fourth-best American on the list, which would be enough to land one of the four men’s halfpipe spots on the U.S. Olympic team.
A strong finish at the Laax Open, which starts Thursday with qualifying, would solidify that standing. U.S. team coaches can also use a discretionary pick to give White a spot.
White had finished fourth, seventh and eighth in the three designated qualifying events before the finale in Mammoth Mountain, where he officially finished 12th. The lack of a podium finish prevented him from securing an automatic spot.
So far, only one U.S. man, Taylor Gold, has recorded a podium finish to qualify in that manner.
Another method the U.S. team uses to fill out its spots is by going down the world points list. Chase Josey comes into this week ranked 12th and Lucas Foster is 13th, one spot ahead of White. Chase Blackwell is 17th.
The qualification period ends Jan. 16, the day after Laax. The Winter X Games are the next weekend, but would not count toward any qualifying criteria.
White is seeking to make his fifth Olympics and there’s very little chance he would be left off the team, even with a subpar outing in Switzerland. But a variety of factors have prevented him from showing his best stuff in the three major events this winter.
A broken binding hurt him throughout the finals at the Dew Tour in December. At Mammoth last weekend, he made it through his first qualifying run easily, but was fatigued afterward and decided not to compete in the final. A few days before Mammoth, White revealed that he had tested positive for COVID-19 in December, but had since been cleared to compete.
The U.S. team coaches will meet the week of Jan. 17 and must have their selections into the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee by Jan. 21.
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By EDDIE PELLS
AP National Writer