Canadian snowboarders stick to their guns on Shaun White after making men’s slopestyle final

Andrew Bucholtz

Max Parrot and Sebastian Toutant may have deleted the critical tweets they posted Wednesday about American snowboarder Shaun White's sudden withdrawal from the slopestyle competition, but they don't seem to be backing down, on or off the course. On the course, the pair of Canadian snowboarders had great days Thursday, with Parrot posting the highest score in qualifying (a 97.5) and Toutant notching a 87.25 (third in his heat, seventh overall). That means both are amongst the eight riders to automatically advance to Saturday's final. Afterwards, when asked about their criticism of White's late decision, they largely stood by it. From Gregory Strong of The Canadian Press:

"I'm happy that I said what I think to the world," Parrot said. ...

"Mr. White... It's easy to find excuses to pull out of a contest when you think you can't win...," Toutant said in a tweet.

Parrot tweeted: "Shaun knows he won't be able to win the slopes, that's why he pulled out. He's scared!"

The trash talk was one of the main talking points when the Canadian duo met the media after qualifying for Saturday's final.

"To take an American's spot, to just not do (compete) — I think it's bad for Americans," Toutant said. "I think one other guy could have been here competing right now. I mean, whatever. He's an amazing rider you know, he won two golds in the halfpipe. I just hoped that he'd be here competing with us."

...The tweets from Toutant, from L'Assomption, Que., and Parrot, from Bromont, Que., were later deleted. Parrot posted an apology, saying he was sorry if he offended anyone.

"I didn't think my tweet would go that far," he said. "It was like no arrogance at all. I just wanted to say that I'm disappointed that Shaun White is not competing in slopestyle because I wanted to compete against him. I do understand that he's going for three golds in a row and I would have maybe done the same thing if I (were) him.

"I'm just saying that I'm mad to not compete with him. I would just love to know who's better, you know."

The criticism of White's decision isn't limited to Canucks, of course. It's notable that some of his American teammates (none of who automatically qualified for the final, meaning they'll have to compete for the four remaining berths in one last heat of 21 riders Saturday) were also upset by the timing. If White had decided before going to Sochi that he wouldn't compete in slopestyle and would instead focus solely on halfpipe, that would have opened up a spot for another American slopestyle rider. His late decision didn't sit well with Americans Chas Guldemond or Sage Kotsenburg, as USA Today's Rachel Axon writes:

There was a lot of guys that I trained really hard with sitting in that fifth spot," said Guldemond, who missed a spot in the finals by finishing fifth in his heat by .75 points.

"It's pretty unfortunate that they missed their opportunity to come to the Games, so that was a pretty big blow," he said. "I'm surprised that he pulled out so late. I knew it was coming sometime this year."

Guldemond declined to elaborate on what he meant by that, but other riders pointed to White's decision to pull out of a couple events this season. Despite qualifying first, White pulled out of the slopestyle final in the first U.S. team qualifier after spraining his ankle in the halfpipe.

White went back and forth on competing in the X Games, saying during qualifying that he didn't think he would compete then committing to the event before pulling out of it days before it was set to start.

"It kind of sucks that we didn't have four people here," said Kotsenburg, "we could have had another person here that could have gotten into the finals. But at the end of the day, we're just snowboarding you know."

One particularly disappointing element of White's withdrawal is it means we won't see a slopestyle showdown between him and Canadian rival Mark McMorris. That battle even has great nicknames, with "The Flying Tomato" (White, thanks to his red hair and propensity for big air) facing off against "McLovin", or "The McRib" (a nice new title McMorris picked up after breaking a rib in this year's X Games, which hasn't stopped him from competing in these Olympics). White's long been the face of snowboarding for many thanks to his performance in Vancouver and his frequent star turns in the X Games, but while he tends to dominate the halfpipe, McMorris is the more-decorated slopestyle rider. With slopestyle (a judged discipline that combines jumps and rails) making its Olympic debut in Sochi, his rivalry with White has received tons of attention in the buildup to these Olympics, including a Rolling Stone piece last January that asked "Is Mark McMorris The Next Shaun White?".

So far, though, McMorris hasn't shone in Sochi either. He scored a 89.25 Thursday, which wasn't good enough to automatically qualify him for the final. Unlike White, though, he's still in the running, along with fellow Canadian Charles Reid. Both would have to finish in the top four in the final qualifier Saturday to earn spots in the final alongside Parrot and Toutant, but they still have a chance to do that. For the moment, though, it's the loud-talking Parrot in the lead, and he and Toutant are backing up their words on the course.