Shaun White's withdrawal from a key Olympic qualifying event came after he experienced lingering COVID-19 symptoms, including fatigue and shortness of breath, The Associated Press has learned.
A person familiar with White's decision told The AP that White's withdrawal from Saturday night's U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain does not impact his plans to compete in Beijing next month. The person requested anonymity because White has not publicly disclosed the reason for his withdrawal.
Last week, White revealed he had tested positive for COVID-19 in December but had been cleared to ride in Mammoth Mountain and was on the mend. White, who had asthma as a child, said the virus was like “a lingering cold.”
The U.S. team has until Jan. 21 to name the full snowboarding team. Only one man, Taylor Gold, has secured a spot, but coaches can award up to three discretionary spots on the halfpipe team and White, a three-time Olympic gold medalist who is ranked 14th in the world, meets all the conditions to receive one.
White went through the first run of Saturday's qualifying round and made it easily into the finals. But when the finals started. White was a no-show. U.S. coach Mike Jankowski said White had aggravated an ankle injury, but the person who spoke to The AP said White's ankle was not an issue and it was COVID-19 symptoms that led him to call it a night.
Jankowski did not immediately return phone messages left by The AP.
This marked the latest setback for the 35-year-old White, who is hoping to compete in his fifth Olympics. At the Dew Tour in December, he was riding well, but a broken binding during his first run in the final threw a wrench in his plans and led to a seventh-place finish. He had finished eighth in a separate qualifier the week earlier.
White also finished fourth last March in a designated qualifying event, but has fallen short of a podium finish that would secure a spot under the U.S. Ski and Snowboard team's “objective criteria” for qualifying.
Despite the rough lead-up to the Olympics, It's hard to imagine a scenario in which the team wouldn't give White a discretionary spot.
“(White) just wants to train and keep working hard and keep getting better,” Jankowski said Saturday night. “He’s hoping the spot where he’s at now holds solid and that he’s able to get the nomination to the team.”
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Eddie Pells, The Associated Press