Sebastien Toutant wins inaugural Olympic big air
Sebastien Toutant has come out victorious of a nerve-wrecking big air show at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games becoming the first ever male Olympic big air champion.
In front of a stellar crowd in the sold-out Alpensia Ski Jumping Stadium, the 25-year-old French Canadian earned a score of 174.25 to not only relegate Kyle Mack (USA; 168.75) and Billy Morgan (GBR; 168.00) to the respective second and third rank but to also become the third Canadian man to win a snowboard gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games.
And although it wasn't much of a surprise to see a Canadian flag on top of the Olympic big air podium, Toutant hasn't been the top pick prior to the finals as he placed fifth in his qualifying heat three days ago therefore barely making it to the finals of the top-12 qualifiers who had set the bar high with their epic performance.
In fact, his teammates Max Parrot and Mark McMorris had been the odds-on favourites for the title but it was the Toutant who paved his road to Gold benefiting from being one of the first riders to drop in as landing a cab 1620 put his competitors under pressure.
However, Torgeir Bergrem (SWE) was able to call with a superb backside 1620 to take over the lead with the top qualifier boys still waiting on top of the massive nature-scaffolding-hybrid jump build by Germany based Schneestern.
While Mack landed his signature backside triple 1440 japan, Jonas Boesiger (SUI) and Parrot also kept the pace by stomping backside triple cork 1620s therefore staying within reach of Bergrem's top score, McMorris and top-qualifier Carlos Garcia Knight missed the landing on their switch backside triple cork 1620s and therefore were already forced to deliver in the second round of this three run, best different two count finals.
And things got even more intense for them when Morgan landed an huge backside triple 1440 nose to join the circle of athletes peering hard at the podium and Toutant throwing down another 1620, this time with a backside rotation cementing himself in first position with a 174.25.
“I'm happy I landed those two tricks. It was clutch definitely to land those two tricks straight up, that is the hard part of this format, landing two tricks out of three,” Toutant said.
And his rivals felt the pinch.
Whereas Mack was able to deal with it landing his frontside 1440 dracula bringing back a special Kotsenburg-Sochi-moment and moving up into second with a 168.75, all other high profile athletes missed the landings in their second attempt which eventually took McMorris and Garcia Knight out of the medals game.
So, as it's the nature of a competition, things came down to the final jump.
Billy Morgan dropped in second and hammered down a textbook frontside triple cork 1440 double grab (mute and tail) to place himself on the bubble with a score of 168.00.
With nine more riders on top – Niklas Mattsson (SWE) unfortunately had to pull out of the competition after injuring his thumb/wrist falling in his first run – Toutant who tried to improve his cab 1620 but went way too deep in the landings as well as Morgan now had to watch the rest of the finals nervously holding on to Gold and Bronze, respectively, as rider after rider couldn't stick their tricks in this go big or go home situation.
“It was really stressful waiting at the bottom because I was the fourth rider to drop and there's a lot of riders to drop still. Happy my score held up,” Seb Toots recalled.
“It was hard to be at the bottom for sure watching all the other guys but I just love snowboarding and I just love all these guys. All these guys are my good friends so I was like wishing the best to all the guys. I wasn't wishing for them to fall but I was definitely wishing myself to win the medal.”
And when Chris Corning came just a little bit too short on his backside quad 1800, Mack fell on his backside triple cork 1620 and Bergrem didn't bring down his cab double cork 1440, Max Parrot was the only one left being able to mix up the podium.
Although the slopestyle Silver medallist known for his huge trick bag could have opted for a safe trick to earn his second PyeongChang medal, the 23-year-old went all in but under rotated his cab triple cork 1800 just like in his second run making a painful acquaintance of the South Korean snow with his chin.
And with the top Canadian falling in his last attempt, the first ever men's Olympic big air podium got fixed with Toutant in first, Mack in second and Morgan securing the second ever Olympic snowboard medal for Great Britain since Jenny Jones won Bronze in the women's slopestyle four years ago.
And just like it was an unreal experience for Jones in Sochi, Morgan couldn't really believe what just had happened to him: “I don't even know what to think at the moment. I never came expecting to get a medal. I was stoked to get in the final and I'm struggling to take it all in at the moment. It's pretty rad. I'm stoked.”
Full results can be checked here.