Silverthorne snowboarders Gerard, Corning, Mack sole Americans to qualify for X Games slopestyle final | SummitDaily.com

Silverthorne snowboarders Gerard, Corning, Mack sole Americans to qualify for X Games slopestyle final

ASPEN — It was more of the same success at X Games Aspen Thursday afternoon for 17-year-old Red Gerard, 18-year-old Chris Corning and 20-year-old Kyle Mack just days after it became official that the Silverthorne slopestyle snowboarding trio will all represent the United States in the same event at next month's Pyeongchang Olympic Games.

The Summit County locals, Gerard, Corning and Mack, were the only three Americans of five snowboarders total who qualified from a group of 16 international stars through to Saturday's slopestyle finals here at Buttermilk Mountain.

Gerard's second run earned a score of 92.00, the best qualifying mark of the afternoon as Corning and Mack — a native of West Bloomfield, Michigan ­— comfortably qualified into the final with first run scores of 84.00 and 82.66 respectively.

Though Gerard registered the top qualifying score, he was the sole member of the Summit County snowboarding trio who entered his second and final qualifying run on Thursday with full pressure on him. Gerard was awarded just a 47.00 for his first run, which put him in seventh after the first round of trips down the Buttermilk course.

But after receiving instructions from his coach to "go fast and take chances" before dropping in for his final run, Gerard put together a confident and smooth second run to earn that 92.00. The run included a nearly flawless backslide 270 in the course's rails section and a switch backside 1260. But it was Gerard's execution of a trick that gave him trouble on his first run, a soaring backside triple cork 1440, that punched his top ticket to Saturday's final.

After Gerard was awarded the 92.00, Corning was waiting for him at the base of the course to give him a hug and congratulate his U.S. teammate on his performance.

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"I'm psyched to be in the final, should be a fun one," Gerard said moments after his second run.

"Chris is one of my good friends right here," Gerard added, "and he rips so hard, so it's really nice having some homies in the final."

Mack is a longtime friend of Gerard's, a fellow snowboarder Mack describes as having known forever. Mack is tight with the Gerard family as well, namely Gerard's older brother Malachi, who he regards as one of his best friends.

"He's such a G," Mack said of Red Gerard, "such a cool homie and he's always supportive and I'm always supportive of him and to go with him is pretty sick and to make finals with him too is awesome."

Mack entered Thursday's X Games slopestyle qualifier fresh off of a win at the Olympic-qualifier U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain in California that punched his ticket to Pyeongchang. The victory earned him the third spot on Team USA's men's snowboard slopestyle and big air team, after Corning was the first to qualify at Dew Tour at Breckenridge Ski Resort last month and Gerard qualified at the U.S. Grand Prix at Snowmass. Since, Ryan Stassel of Alaska was named as the fourth member to the four-person team.

Following the competition, Mack was showered with comments such as "keep up the momentum," from passers-by as he added that he felt really good heading into the qualifier despite still recovering a bit from a high-left ankle sprain suffered earlier in the season. It's on the goofy rider's back foot that provides most of his power.

"It's kind of been bugging me, but it's slowly getting better, and the best thing I can do is stay off of it," Mack said.

"I did a couple of tricks I didn't even try up until the run, like the back-triple," he added. "I didn't do any of those until my actual run and the double Michalchuk on the quarter pipe was one that I actually tried today too and got it. It was definitely an exciting day to pull those tricks and get those landed."

The trio will be joined at Saturday's final by Thursday's second-place qualifier Darcy Sharpe of Canada (88.33) and fifth-place qualifier Yuki Kadono of Japan (77.00). Last year's X Games champion Marcus Kleveland of Norway and 2017 medalists Tyler Nicholson and Mark McMorris of Canada automatically are placed in Saturday's final.

When Gerard, Corning and Mack snowboard during Saturday's 1:30 p.m. slopestyle final, they'll be riding to earn the United States its first X Games men's slopestyle medal since 2012 and the U.S.'s first gold since Shaun White won the competition in 2009.

"It's pretty sick to see all three of the Americans that are going to the Olympics make the finals," Mack said. "It's just so cool to see the momentum rolling. Just try to bring it on to the next one."