KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Shaun White took 10 practice runs down the halfpipe on a windless, sunny morning in the mountains above Sochi and let out a big "whoooo-hooo" when the last one was over.
Yes, he says, this is where he belongs.
In his first interview since announcing he was skipping the Olympic slopestyle contest, White told The Associated Press he is at peace with his decision to focus solely on the event where he's won two straight gold medals and will go for a third on Tuesday.
"I can understand if it's your first time to the Olympics, you wouldn't understand a decision like the one I made," he said Saturday. "But you set your goals according to what's important to you. Halfpipe is important to me and I didn't want to jeopardize that."
White withdrew from the Olympic debut of slopestyle after a couple of rugged days of practice that left him with a jammed wrist. He called the course "intimidating."
With input from the riders, the course was made significantly tamer by the final, where another American, Sage Kotsenburg, won the first gold medal of the games about an hour after White's session was over.
No regrets, says White, who will leave the Sochi Games the most famous name in his sport regardless of what happens on the halfpipe. He knows, however, that doubling down there adds a significant amount of pressure. He's trying to become the first American male to win three straight golds at the Winter Olympics.
"I'm OK with that," he said. "It keeps me going, keeps me progressing, keeps me guessing. And I'm hoping to have a great Olympics. I'm feeling very, very confident and healthy, which is nice."