Red Gerard earns first snowboard Gold
USA's rising slopestyle star Redmond Gerard has secured the first snowboard Gold medal of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games edging off Canada's high-flyers Max Parrot and Mark McMorris to the respective second and third.
But before Gerrard was able to add another chapter to the Olympic history books becoming the youngest ever snowboard Gold medallist and first athlete of the new generation born after 1 January 2000 to claim an Olympic medal, the Colorado native had to work his way on the top spot of the podium quite hard.
However, let's take one thing at a time.
Following yesterday's qualifiers which had already delivered a foretaste of what was to come today, 11 February was the date to go all in for twelve riders who had managed to make it to the highly expected finals of the Olympic slopestyle event, the second ever since its debut in Sochi 2014.
Despite some challenging conditions caused by gusty winds there was no room for safety runs or anything alike as all twelve knew that throwing down never mattered more in the past couple of years than today.
A long time of preparation together with an international and national qualifying period and yesterdays qualifiers came down to three last runs of which each athlete's best one would decide on who would take the glory and walk away with some decent hardware.
And with the pressure on, it was Sweden's Niklas Mattson opening up the big show which in the end saw the riders struggling with bout of nerves, the wind or trying to find the golden line on the architectural course crafted by Germany based Schneestern crew.
New Zealand's underdog Carlos Garcia Knight, the ninth to drop in, was in fact the first to land a solid run which he wrapped up with back-to-back 1260 doubles earning him 78.60, a score which in equalled not only the lead after run one but also a fifth rank in the end.
Only four riders were able to beat the young Kiwi which – in the field of big names – no one really had on the list.
At first, 2014 Silver medallist Stale Sandbech (NOR) sniffed a chance on another bling landing his second run which he started off with a front nosebluntslide and front bluntslide to boardslide before adding a front lip to fakie and a cab lip to fakie and finishing it off with a frontside 1440 indy, backside 1260 mute, cab 1260 stalefish on the three-jump kicker line.
The reigning big air World Champion was awarded with a 81.01 but missed out the podium as fourth. However, the 24-year-old aerial monster will get another chance for a medal in the big air competition on 24 February.
Sandbech's score didn't last long as top score as Mark McMorris, a recovery wonder from Canada who had cheated death eleven months ago surviving a horrifying Whistler back country crash in which he not only broke about 17 bones but also ruptured his spleen, fractured his pelvis and also had to deal with a collapsed left lung, was back to add another medal to his 2014 Bronze.
Although the odds-on favourite for the title had some problems with the jibbing section not really locking in two rails and having some chicken wings along his cab 180 on the hip, he launched the biggest tricks on the kickers with a switch backside 1260 stalefish, frontside 1440 triple cork mute and backside triple cork 1620 mute which were key his key to the top-3 and a 85.20.
But that wasn't the end to an epic story as also run number three had some stellar moments.
After Sebastien Toutant (CAN) was already looking safe to bring down a medal run, the French Canadian missed out the landing on his very last jump and with that the last chance to podium.
While Seb Toots didn't have the luck on his side, Red Gerard was able to throw down the run of his life. After the youngest rider and light weight in the field had struggled with the speed in both of his runs before, the sole US American in the finals seized the chance.
In memorial of 2014 title winner Sage Kotsenburg, Gerard paid tribute to the style going as smooth, steezy and clean from top to bottom as no one else. Using the whole course for a creative line, he made everything look just easy including the hard to pull off quarter pipe frontside air transfer to double kink trick.
Before, he had kicked off his victory run with a half cab 50-50 backside 360 out into the already mentioned transfer, 50-50 boardslide 270 out, backside 360 nosebone transfer and a frontside 540 before he finally was able to stomp his jumps.
After his switch backside 1260 indy he just had the right speed to land his frontside double cork 1080 indy off the left side transition before finishing things off with a backside triple cork 1440 mute to take home the win with a 87.16.
When he rode into the finish area, Gerard already knew that he had accomplished something big but “when the score came up my jaw just dropped. I mean, just to land a run would have been plenty for me, and to get on the podium. But to get first is crazy,” he said.
However, before being able to state this quote there were still a few guys up on top who could have bumped him off the top spot, including last to drop Max Parrot.
And the Canadian known for his big air skills was able to deal with the pressure nailing a clean and technical rail line with a hardway lipslide 270 out, backside 360 on to 180 out, cab 180 to 360 out as well as a his cab 1260 indy, double cork 1080 mute and backside triple cork 1440 melon on point as usual.
It took the judges a while to post the final score of the day, but when a 86.00 lit up, Parrot had secured Silver after he had missed out the podium in Sochi as fifth:
"I'm on a cloud, even though there's not a rainy cloud here,” he said.
With Parrot taking second, Gerard automatically made his home country proud.
In fact, it was the fourth time Team USA has repeated gold in a snowboarding event: Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter, halfpipe, 2002, 2006; Shaun White, halfpipe, 2006, 2010; Seth Wescott, snowboard cross, 2006, 2010; Sage Kotsenburg and Red Gerard, slopestyle, 2006, 2010.
But with all the winners getting the fame, let's not forget Mons Roisland who missed out his chance on earning some fame taking a hard slam during the training breaking his chest bone.
Full results can be found here.