American medal drought continues as Summit County trio goes 4, 6, 7
After a week of bruises — thanks to bails in practice and during last night’s X Games big air final here at Buttermilk — reigning X Games slopestyle snowboard champ Marcus Kleveland had every excuse as to why he wouldn’t repeat.
After Saturday afternoon’s slopestyle final, Kleveland said he hadn’t been feeling the competition all day as his glutes and hips were sore. But after he managed to land a monster second run on a relatively slow X Games slopestyle course, Kleveland was rewarded with a score of 93.66 from the judges.
On that championship run, the 18-year-old snowboarder from Dombås, Norway, strung together a switch frontside lip to regular and backside lip to regular to start his run on the rails. He then transitioned through the middle of the course with a backside 270 and a 270 out on the kick rail before executing a cab 270 flip out on the rainbow rail. He then concluded with a switchback to double 10, a cab 16 and a finishing backside triple 14 that left the judges smitten.
What crossed his mind the moment he landed the final jump?
“I was like, ‘That was the run I was coming here to do,’” Kleveland said. “And I was so happy I managed to land it, it was awesome.”
Will that run be similar to what the rest of the world will see from one of the Olympic slopestyle medalist favorites in Pyeongchang, South Korea?
“I don’t know,” Kleveland said. “We’ll just have to wait and see how the course is and the conditions.”
Kleveland was joined on the podium Saturday afternoon by silver medalist Darcy Sharpe and bronze medalist Mark McMorris of Canada.
The three Americans who qualified through to Saturday’s final — Summit County shredders Red Gerard, Chris Corning and Michigan-native Kyle Mack — finished in fourth, sixth and seventh place respectively.
It was the 17-year-old Gerard of Silverthorne who began the competition with a bang, ranking in second after the event’s first round of runs with a score of 82.66. Corning and Mack didn’t end up with a medal either, but the 18-year-old Silverthorne resident Corning and the 20-year-old from West Bloomfield, Michigan, Mack posted respectable scores of 80.33 and 77.00 to keep some momentum before Team USA leaves for South Korea on Feb. 2.
The fourth-place finish was a gutsy showing for the young Gerard, as he said his energy level was low on Saturday. That didn’t stop the Silverthorne snowboarder from showing off his trademark consistency on that smooth first run that led to his finish as the top American.
“I was just happy to land the first run,” Gerard said, “and the speed was a little tough for me on, like, the back triple is kind of where I started to throw down really hard. So that was tough but I was just hype to land a run. I was just kind of tired after that.”
Gerard also rode a new snowboard during both the slopestyle qualifier and final competition, one typically ridden by Burton athletes in halfpipe events. Gerard’s close friend, X Games roommate and American slopestyle snowboarder Brock Crouch, commended his bud for what he was able to accomplish with the 11th hour switch.
“I looked at him (the other day),” Crouch said, “and I was like, ‘Red, what are you doing, man?’”
“He’s riding the Custom X,” Crouch added. “Most of the Burton riders are riding that on the pipe. … He went from like a pretty good solid slope board to a pipe board the day before qualifiers. It seems to be working out.”
Gerard, Corning and Mack will stay in Aspen, attending a U.S. Snowboard camp over at Snowmass on Monday and Tuesday before disembarking on Feb. 2 for all three’s first Olympic games in Pyeongchang.
The Olympic men’s snowboard slopestyle qualifying round will take place live at Phoenix Snow Park at 6 p.m. local mountain time on Friday, Feb. 9. The finals will take place live at 6 p.m. local mountain time on Feb. 10.
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