Skip to main content

Sebastien Toutant is seen during his first run on the snowboard slopestyle course at the Sochi Winter Games, Thursday Feb. 6.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Maybe it's their youth or the rebel nature of their sport, but slopestyle snowboarders have made a rude introduction at the Olympics, getting noticed as much for their trash-talking as their performances.

While bad-mouthing opponents is almost routine in professional sports such as basketball, soccer and hockey, it's still relatively rare at the Olympics, where sportsmanship is supposed to be paramount. And yet the inaugural slopestyle event hadn't started when the tone turned nasty.

It began last Wednesday, with a pair of Canadians, Maxence Parrot and Sebastien Toutant, using Twitter to slam American superstar Shaun White for backing out of the slopestyle to concentrate on the snowboard halfpipe, on which he is a two-time Olympic champion.

Story continues below advertisement

White was "scared" wrote Parrot, 19. Toutant, 21, said the 27-year-old American was looking for excuses. They didn't let up Thursday, when the competition began with qualifying runs.

"I'm happy that I said what I think to the world," Parrot said after qualifying for Saturday's final.

Ditto, Toutant said: "I think a lot of people feel the same way, they just don't say it."

Toutant, who also qualified for the final, dug the knife in further by saying he didn't view White as a real competitor because the American was playing it safe and not taking a chance in slopestyle, where he might lose.

This week's outbursts may have something to do with resentment toward White, a superstar who makes millions and has clearly ruffled some feathers among his younger rivals.

Parrot, who posted the highest score Thursday, making him the favourite to win the gold, said he was frustrated he wouldn't get a chance to take on White.

"It has been a couple of contests in a row that he is pulling out at the last minute. And I would just really like to compete against him," the Canadian said, adding if he does win, it won't mean as much to some. "People are going to say, 'Well, Shaun White could have beaten you,' and I will be really mad about that."

Story continues below advertisement

Toutant echoed that sentiment, saying while he respects White's abilities, the American owed it to everyone to compete. "I'm not saying he wouldn't have had any chance, he's an amazing snowboarder. … What I'm saying is that you are a rider under the lights and you just don't [drop out]."

White's biggest rival, Canadian Mark McMorris, didn't join the trash-talking, but instead took aim at the judges. He called the scoring of his qualifying run Thursday "ridiculous," after he failed to place high enough to advance directly to the final. He now has to try to get there through the semi-final round earlier Saturday.

Canadian teammate Spencer O'Brien, who on Thursday advanced to the women's final, joked the cocky attitude and rude language had certainly gotten the sport noticed. "Slopestyle is really making a splash," she said with a smile. "The Internet was just abuzz."

Canada's chef de mission Steve Podborski played down the apparent lack of sportsmanship.

"Is it something that we would endorse? No. Is it something that happens in this world? Yes," he told a press conference. "They're big boys and I think they're going to be fine at the end of the day. … We have a great team that doesn't need to trash-talk, but if they do it as part of their subculture, well, you know …"

For Russians watching the event, trash-talking was the least of their concerns. Some had trouble just figuring out what was going on. It didn't help that the play-by-play at the venue seemed to be mainly in English, with some translation in Russian and French. (French and English are the official languages of the Olympics.)

Story continues below advertisement

"It's difficult to understand because the announcers, they are in English and the people speak very fast and I can't understand it," Ivan Vasyutin said as he sipped on hot chocolate while rock music blasted from nearby speakers.

His wife, Maiya, didn't mind too much. She just enjoyed the music. "I was dancing," she said.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter