Silverthorne snowboarder Red Gerard wins first American gold of Winter Olympics
After he stomped his third and final run to become the youngest American male to win a gold medal at an individual event in Winter Olympic history, Red Gerard was his typical even-keeled, laid back 17-year-old self.
He was so chill while fielding interviews with excited reporters at Phoenix Snow Park, that when one asked him about his thoughts on meeting the current International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, it took the Silverthorne teenager a minute to realize who that was.
“He just said,” Gerard recalled of Bach, “’what were you thinking during all those spins?’ And I said, ‘I just wanted to land a run. That’s about it.’”
Throughout this Olympic qualifying process, Gerard — whose Instagram followers ballooned from 50,000 to 80,000 following the event — has been adamant that every time he goes down a slopestyle course, it’s the same. And even though he scrubbed his first two runs of the Olympic final on the inventive course in South Korea, Gerard indeed treated that third and final run just like any old day at his family’s now-famous backyard-snow park in Silverthorne.
With his nearly-immaculate 87.16 final run, Gerard became the first American medalist at this year’s Pyeongchang Games. And he did so despite taking on snowboard slopestyle’s heaviest of hitters, including eventual silver medalist Max Parrot and bronze medalist Mark McMorris, both of Canada.
“I would guess people are pretty surprised I won,” Gerard said.
“To be honest it’s a little hard to believe for sure,” he added. “I’m absolutely mind-blown. I don’t think I’ve had enough time for it to settle in. I’m just so happy I got to land a run and to end up on the podium is awesome.
“I can’t believe it.”
Heading into the slopestyle final, Gerard was regarded as a wild card to bring home the gold thanks to his always inventive take on slopestyle courses. He wasn’t the favorite, but on this atypical Olympic slopestyle course, one complete with different rails, jibs and jump options, it was Gerard’s one-of-a-kind style that shone through.
“I try to be a little different with my runs,” he said after he won the gold.
On that third and final run, Gerard hugged his friends at the top of the course before dropping in. On his first two runs, Gerard failed to execute his trick on the second of three jumps to end the course.
Despite the struggles, and despite the fact that he clutched his lower back after scrubbing his second run, Gerard dropped in the same way he had all competition. Coming in switch, on the biggest run of his life the nerves didn’t get to him.
Once again he strung together his stylish run, complete with a tap in the bowl feature. And in the middle of the run, it was his brave, technical and clean take on the course’s quarter pipe that set him up with an opportunity to post a gold medal-caliber score.
“I just look for different lines,” Gerard said.
“I think the side hit helped me because nobody was hitting that,” he added.
Then when he landed that second jump, all he needed to do was land at the bottom to enter into the medal conversation.
Executing four rotations on his final jump — a triple cork 1440 — Gerard once again stomped his landing to provide a pseudo-sequel to American Sage Kotsenburg’s gold medal run at Sochi in 2014.
But did it feel like a gold medal run?
“I don’t know, to be honest,” Gerard said. “I didn’t watch too many runs. I kind of tried to stay warm and sit inside.
“It felt like a good run.”
As for the specifics of what it took to win the gold?
“Just spins, yeah,” Gerard said to reporters. “Just a whole bunch of spins.”
Joel Reichenberger contributed to this report.
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