Watch: Frisco freeskier Kiernan Fagan wins Youth Olympic slopestyle gold medal
FRISCO — Funny as it sounds, Frisco freeskier Kiernan Fagan imagines there might have been more competition butterflies at the Lausanne 2020 Youth Winter Olympics than at a regular Olympics.
Sure, Fagan has never competed at an Olympics. But the Youth Olympics are special in that most athletes, including Fagan, get only one shot. Considering the age limit of 18, this was Fagan’s only opportunity to win Youth Winter Olympic gold. When it comes to the Olympics, athletes theoretically have another opportunity four years down the road.
“It’s, ‘This is happening right now,'” Fagan said of his mindset in the moment. “‘If I mess up, it’s over forever.'”
After Fagan fell on his first of two qualifying runs through the Youth Olympic slopestyle course, the typically chill 18-year-old became flush with anxiety.
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So before he dropped in for his last chance to make the final round, Fagan turned his playlist to his go-to song and tuned out the world around him — just focusing on the slopestyle course in front of him and the confident, calming energy he gets from the music. Listening to “Robber” by Juice Wrld, the song’s soothing background piano instrumental put him in the right place to stomp his run.
“That’s what I listened to when I got my first World Cup podium in Italy,” Fagan said Tuesday evening from Lausanne, Switzerland. “That’s my song. So I listened to it again at the Mammoth World Cup. It puts me in the moment.”
Fagan made the most of that moment, landing his scaled-back run through the course to make it to finals after he slipped out on an icy jump lift on the first run.
Once he realized he booked his ticket to the final round, scheduled for later in the day, the nerves disappeared for Fagan. With three chances to land one run in finals, he knew he had more room for error to try his biggest and best run through the course.
He did just that on his first run, taking a lead before his Youth Olympic roommate, fellow American Hunter Henderson, topped his score.
But because Henderson dropped into the course right before Fagan, the Frisco resident didn’t even know Henderson had usurped his score.
Reflecting back on the moment, Fagan said he was glad he lacked that knowledge. Maybe that would have made the nerves return. Without them, Fagan flew through the course, taking an inventive line on rails other skiers avoided to earn an eventual championship score of 90.66 to win gold.
“I did what I wanted to,” Fagan said. “I stomped it and felt super good. My mom was there watching, my friends, the crowd was vibing out. It was sick.”
The Youth Olympic slopestyle course in Switzerland was set up with a rail section leading into two jumps before rounding out with three final rail sections. On the first rail feature, Fagan did a 450 degree horizontal spin onto the rail to a 450 off the rail. It’s a big rail trick that has become his signature in competitions.
After landing that, Fagan built enough speed to land a switch double-cork 1260 with a mute grab, which includes two inversions with a horizontal rotation. Fagan was sure to lock in the mute grab high up on his skis, tweaking out the move as his feet were crossed to impress the judges.
On the second jump, Fagan kept enough speed to land an unnatural (rotating the opposite direction he’s used to) double-cork 1260 with a mute grab. The 3 1/2 rotations meant Fagan had to land the trick switch, or backward.
After stomping it, Fagan kept enough balance and form to land a bold move: A switch 270 pretzel onto and off a rainbow rail. In this section of the course, most other skiers opted for easier rails. Fagan was the only skier to attempt a spinning move onto the rainbow rail, which he landed before exiting the rail with another 270-degree spin.
With two rails left, Fagan showed off his power and ability to control at high speeds and amplitude by gapping the first portion of the next rail feature, the flat part of the flat-down rail, with a switch rightside 270.
After gapping the flat, Fagan exited the rail and kept speed into the final feature, the down-flat-down rail. Here, Fagan was seamless with his continuing 450, which included a 180 through the rail’s kink before exiting and landing with the final 360 degrees of the 450.
“I came into this event hoping to win it for sure,” Fagan said. “I knew I had it in me.”
Fagan will compete in Wednesday’s big air competition with his eyes set on two gold medals in the week following his 18th birthday Saturday.
And once the Youth Olympics is over, Fagan is staying positive about getting an invitation to a certain big competition Feb. 6-9 at Copper Mountain Resort.
“Hopefully, I can make Dew Tour with this (result), as well,” he said.
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