Red’s ready: 17-year-old Silverthorne snowboarder sole American to qualify, goes for Olympic slopestyle medal Saturday, 6 p.m. MST
Red Gerard will be the sole Summit County and American snowboarder to compete in the Olympic men’s snowboard slopestyle medal round live at 6 p.m. MST Saturday despite valiant efforts from his fellow Silverthorne snowboarders Chris Corning and Kyle Mack.
On the colorful and challenging course at Phoenix Snow Park, Gerard accomplished what many expected out of the steely and smooth 17-year-old rider: For him to execute a creative line choice on the challenging three jib, three jump course with his customary flair, making most everything look much easier than it actually is.
Gerard was awarded an 82.55 on his first qualifying run. It was a careful-yet-fluid progression down the course, one that Gerard mastered despite the fact that the course quickly crept up on other riders at times. The layout featured a final rail setup that is essentially two separate sections — quickly stepping-down from the section right before the course’s three main concluding jumps.
But the course’s distinct features — including a snow bowl and quarter-pipe takeoffs — didn’t hold back Gerard, who received much support from family and friends in attendance, including some who held up posters, one of his smiling face and one that read: “We’re here to get Gerarded.”
Gerard’s 82.55 qualified him only behind Canadian medal favorites Max Parrot (87.436) and Mark McMorris (86.83) from Heat 2. The final three snowboarders to qualify for the medal round from Heat 2 were Stale Sandbech of Norway (82.13), Tyler Nicholson of Canada (79.21) and Seppe Smits of Belgium (78.36).
Mack, 20, ended up ranked 11th of 18 riders in Heat 2, though he was oh-so-close to posting a score that likely would have put him in that top six from the heat. Mack posted his score of 53.55 on his second run despite the fact that he didn’t land his final jump. Leading up to that last jump, much like his close friend Gerard, Mack took an inventive approach to the rail and jib section at the top before transitioning into the jump portion of the course where he landed his customary “Bloody Dracula” — a trick that disjointed his first run of the day. Unable to land the final jump on that second run, though, the strength of the first three-quarters of Mack’s final run wasn’t enough to qualify.
Competing in the first heat earlier in the day, Gerard and Mack’s fellow Silverthorne snowboarder Chris Corning was also oh-so-close to qualification.
Corning, of all the slopestyle riders, however, was not in ideal position for that first heat. As the very first rider of the entire competition, Corning was scheduled to drop in at or shortly after 6 p.m. MST, Friday. But for 41 minutes Corning’s first run was delayed, as the event organizers at Phoenix Snow Park cited “technical maintenance” as the reason for the delay.
In the meantime, the 18-year-old Corning remained customarily calm during the delay, even shadow-boxing while lying on his back in the snow at the top of the slopestyle course to stay loose.
As the delay dragged on and on, Corning and other competitors, including Alaskan and two-time Olympian Ryan Stassel — who also failed to qualify for the final — were permitted to take off down the course to maintain familiarity atop their boards.
Once Corning dropped in at 6:41 p.m. local Summit County time for his official run, he executed a solid run, one he seemed happy with as he raised his arms and smiled at the bottom of the course while also showcasing his new airbrushed helmet — complete with his name in cursive and an American flag.
The judges awarded Corning with 70.85, a score he seemed happy with. But after all 19 snowboarders in Heat 1 went through on their first runs, Corning was on the outside looking in. His 70.85 put him in seventh place, right on the bubble as the top six snowboarders would qualify through to Saturday’s slopestyle medal round.
On his second run, Corning lost his balance on one of the atypical course’s first rail and jib features, which effectively voided the rest of his run as the slip-up wouldn’t allow him to score any higher than the 70.85.
As for the snowboarders who qualified through to Saturday’s final from Heat 1, Norwegian and 2018 X Games slopestyle gold medalist Marcus Kleveland took first (83.71), while his countrymen Mons Roisland (76.50) and Torgeir Bergrem (75.45) also qualified in fourth and fifth places respectively.
The other snowboarders to qualify from Heat 1 were New Zealand’s Carlos Garcia Knight (80.10, second place), Canada’s Sebastien Toutant (78.01, third place) and Sweden’s Niklas Mattsson (sixth place). Corning’s 70.85 ended up ranking in ninth place at the end of Heat 1, while Stassel’s 23.50 put him in 17th place.
The medal round of the Olympic men’s snowboard slopestyle competition will take place live at 6 p.m. MST on Saturday and can be viewed at: http://stream.nbcolympics.com/snowboarding-mens-slopestyle-final
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