Future of Olympic slopestyle uncertain

18th April 2014, by Abi Butcher

Slopestyle snowboarder Jenny Jones won Britain's first Winter Olympics medal in Sochi

Slopestyle snowboarder Jenny Jones won Britain's first Winter Olympics medal in Sochi

The future of slopestyle in the Winter Olympics is in doubt, after the discipline produced an “unacceptably high” number of injuries in Sochi according to an official at the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The IOC’s Lars Engebretsen, who scrutinises injury rates among Olympic athletes, told Associated Press that slopestyle skiing and snowboarding should be dropped from future Winter Olympic Games if the disciplines do not become safer.

The discipline is one in which Britain excels — Jenny Jones won Britain’s first Winter Olympic medal on snow with bronze in the snowboard slopestyle, and James Woods last year won silver at the Freestyle World Championships but was injured while training for Sochi and finished in fifth place. There were high hopes for skier Katie Summerhayes after she finished third in the slopestyle qualifiers but she eventually finished seventh in the final after a fall.

Mr Engebretsen, head of scientific activities at the IOC’s medical and scientific department, said injury rates in slopestyle skiing and snowboarding were “much higher” than any other sport in Sochi — but he did not give specific numbers.

“To me [the injury rate] was unacceptably high, absolutely ... very, very, very high,” said Mr Engebretsen, also head doctor for the Norwegian Olympic Committee. “Right now the injury rate as it was in Sochi was too high to be a sport that we have in the Olympics.”

Top snowboarder Sean White pulled out of the slopestyle in Sochi after hurting his wrist while practising, saying at the time: “The potential risk of injury is a bit too much for me to gamble my other Olympic goals on.”

Mr Engebretsen said White’s withdrawal was “a very bad sign” and added that the sport “must change” if it is to remain in the Winter Olympic Games.

The IOC executive board would make the final decision on whether to drop slopestyle.

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