Sochi Games: Competition begins

Charles Guldemond of the United States competes in Men's Slopestyle Qualification during Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor X-Treme Park on February 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Cameron Spencer, Getty Images

SOCHI, Russia -- Competition at the Sochi Olympics has begun, 32 hours before the opening ceremony. 

Early starts are needed because of 12 men's and women's medal events added since the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. 

Men's snowboard slopestyle qualifying runs - without American star Shaun White, who withdrew Wednesday - got under way Thursday at 10 a.m. local time at X-Treme Park in the mountains above Sochi. 

Women's qualifying runs were to follow in the afternoon, and women's moguls qualifying was scheduled to start the freestyle skiing events. 

 Men's slopestyle and women's moguls will be among the first medals to be awarded Saturday. 

Down in Sochi, the new team figure skating competition begins at the Iceberg Skating Palace. 

The men's short program is to be followed by the pairs.

White had jammed his wrist on one practice jump and watched the world's best snowboarders join him in tumbling down the supersized, super-scary Olympic slopestyle course. 

Quickly, his choice became clear: Time to step away from the danger, and give himself a better chance in the event he knows he can win. 

The world's most famous snowboarder pulled out of the new Olympic event Wednesday, saying that after much deliberation, he has decided to bypass a chance at winning two gold medals at these games and instead concentrate on the halfpipe, where he'll have a chance to win his third straight title next week. 

"With the practice runs I have taken, even after course modifications and watching fellow athletes get hurt, the potential risk of injury is a bit too much for me to gamble my other Olympics goals on," White said in a statement.

The world's most decorated rider in a sport known for its risk-takers, White's decision was a stunner that dealt yet another blow to the still-to-start Sochi Games. They have been wracked by security threats and political dust-ups, along with the loss of at least one other headliner, injured American skier Lindsey Vonn.

White isn't leaving, but his departure from an event that was essentially introduced at the Olympics this year to take advantage of his star power certainly can't make the folks at the IOC or NBC too happy.

"He's a notable person and he probably would have brought more viewers to slopestyle," said Nick Goepper, an American who competes in the skiing version of the event. 

IOC spokesman Mark Adams downplayed the idea that the course is too dangerous.

"I don't think that's an issue," he said. "A lot of the athletes have said they're very happy, they like the venue."

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