‘So far, the plan is still not to attend X… Especially considering how much work this has been to qualify for the Olympics. It’s that time of, what do I really want to work on before the Olympics and you’ve only got one week to really crank it out.’
The Flying Tomato’s initial decision surprised the snowboarding world. He’s attended every single Winter X Games since 2002, and with 13 gold medals he’s the most decorated athlete in the competition’s history.
In a dramatic turn of events White then reversed his decision, deciding he would compete, thoroughly confusing the press in the process. Order seemed to be restored until yesterday when it transpired that actually, no, Shaun White would be resting himself in a bid to ensure he is on top form for Russia. This decision has raised the question as to whether other athletes will follow suit, either choosing not to compete or not giving the X Games 100% in order to protect their Olympic bid.
Sochi 2014: The Biggest Olympic Games Ever
For a long time, the Winter X Games has been the premier event in winter action sports, but with Sochi 2014 the Winter Olympics has got a whole lot bigger:
- It’s got the most ever participating nations for a winter games – with 90 in total.
- It’s the most expensive ever – at $51 billion, the budget surpasses even the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
- There are 12 new events, including slopestyle and ski halfpipe.
Great Britain Freestyle Ski Coach Pat Sharples acknowledges the magnitude of the event, particularly after British success in the London two years ago: ‘Now the Olympics has come along and, especially after seeing what happened at London 2012, everybody wants this. It’s new, it’s fresh.’
A Showcase to the World
The Winter Olympics only occurs every four years, so the chance for snowboarders to compete is much more limited than at Aspen, which takes place annually. But not only is the opportunity to compete for an Olympic medal scarce, the coverage is far more extensive than The X Games. Riders will be able to showcase their talents to a much bigger audience: Sochi 2014 will be broadcast across over 80 television networks to a truly global audience. Snowboarder Danny Davis, in The New York Times, said: ‘The viewership’s probably insane. The number of kids who see it and think, ‘That was so cool, I want to be a snowboarder’ — you’re probably getting a lot of people into the sport. Which is awesome.’
The Anti-Olympic Camp
While the Olympics is certainly a bigger global showcase, it’s clear that the sentiment in the snowboarding and skiing world is not just to find the bigger audience. When it comes to competition, Danny Davis has made his preferences pretty clear: Not many competitors have been quite so open about which competition they favour, but there’s clearly a few more boarders than Davis hungry for an X-Games medal over an Olympic one. Then there are those snowboarders who’d rather see the back of contests altogether. A recent article on Onboard, ‘Are Contests Killing Snowboarding?’ shows the varying opinions of boarders about competing, many of which are hostile. Ethan Morgan, after not making the German Sochi 2014 squad, posted on Instagram: His status read: ‘Contest snowboarding has gone to shit.’ The apparent soul sucking nature of the contest has been further summed up by Jenny Jones, when commenting on Slopestyle’s inclusion at Sochi 2014: “Some people didn’t think it should be in there because it does take something away from Slopestyle. It’s free-spirited, like surfing, skating or BMX and when it gets involved with the Olympics then something else comes along – the whole thing becomes a lot more official.”
Will Athletes Hold Back at the X-Games?
With little over two weeks between the two events, it’s been suggested that some athletes might hold back at the X-Games for fear of injury at the Winter Olympics. Shaun White’s initial withdrawal seemed to be about that very issue, but his dramatic U-Turn came with assurances that he would be aiming at a top run:
‘It’s a tough balance, I really want to get a lot of practice in before the Olympics but I am also much more motivated to give my best run in a competition and I’m excited to go out and do that at X Games.’
Fellow American, Davin Logan agrees with White and thinks that both events will complement each other: ‘It’s the best training for the Olympics. If you can throw your best run at the X Games, you are ready for the Olympics.’ With DNA dominated by competitive spirit, it would go completely against the nature of these guys to hold back. Free skier Alex Schlopy explained:
Who Cares? The X-Games Are Here!
So is this year’s Olympics bigger than the X-Games? In some respects, yes – more participants, more events, more coverage and bigger budgets. But that doesn’t make it bigger in the minds of some athletes. It’s clear that many still hold a preference for the X-Games, and some would rather be done with competitive riding altogether. But overall, it doesn’t really matter. It seems apparent that participants in both events are there to give it their all. Just to have them next to each other this year is the best thing that could happen!