Trash-talking Canadian snowboarders happy they spoke out
Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, February 6, 2014 4:11AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 6, 2014 10:45AM EST
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Forget McRib versus the Flying Tomato.
The rivalry between Canadian snowboarding star Mark McMorris and American pioneer Shaun White has been shelved for now. Enter Sebastien Toutant and Maxence Parrot, a couple of trash-talking Canucks who didn't back down the day after criticizing White for pulling out of the slopestyle event at the Sochi Games.
"I'm happy that I said what I think to the world," Parrot said.
White withdrew Wednesday on the eve of the qualification round, citing concerns about the course at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park and the potential for injury. A social media brouhaha kicked off a short time later when Toutant and Parrot weighed in on Twitter.
"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."
Parrot, also a podium contender after winning gold at last month's X Games, shared similar thoughts.
"There's been a couple contests in a row that he pulled out at the last minute," he said. "I'm just mad about that because I want to compete against him. I want to know who's better."
White, dubbed the Flying Tomato for his red locks, is a huge name in the snowboarding world and one of the faces of the American team. McMorris, a Regina native recently nicknamed McRib after breaking a rib a couple weeks ago, is also a force in slopestyle, a longtime X Games discipline that is making its Olympic debut in Sochi.
White, who jammed his wrist while training earlier in the week, is still entered in the men's halfpipe and will go for his third straight Olympic title in that event.
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 ignited debate about sportsmanship and showed the power and reach of social media. It was also a marked change from the cliches and dry quotes that are so common in today's sports world.
The fact a pair of Canadian athletes offered blunt thoughts about the competition -- especially a legendary figure like White -- was also surprising.
Chef de mission Steve Podborski said the Canadian team doesn't endorse trash talk but he knows it can be part of the culture in some sports.
"Is it something that we would endorse? No. Is it something that happens in this world? Yes," Podborski said at a news conference in Sochi. "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..."
The snowboarding scene is a little different than more established winter sports.
Athletes and fans tend to be younger, hipper and perhaps a little less inclined to adhere to tradition. Some competitors wear camouflage pants on the slopes while White is known for wearing a stars-and-stripes bandana across his face.
Regardless of the sport, there are certain expectations in place for all members of the Canadian team.
"We have Olympic preparation seminars, we have Olympic excellence series, we gather athletes together so they learn about each other and learn the rules and how to play nice with everybody else," Podborski said. "At the end of the day it's a process. But this team, I would assure you, is actually a fine group of people and they (will) lift each other up.
"I don't think we spend a lot of time necessarily teaching them how to be better. There's a real great culture in the Canadian team that allows them to move forward."
Canadian Olympic Committee president Marcel Aubut was also confident, saying that he expects Canadians to be on the podium every day in Sochi.
"Canada is here to compete and win," Aubut says. "This is an ambitious goal, but we Canadians like it this way."
With files from Canadian Press senior sports writer Neil Davidson.