Men’s snowboarders light up PyeongChang 2018
US teenager Redmond Gerard kicked off the men’s snowboard events at PyeongChang 2018 by winning slopestyle gold. His compatriot Shaun White collected his third Olympic halfpipe gold, while France’s Pierre Vaultier retained his snowboard cross title, Canada’s Sébastien Toutant took the honours in the inaugural Olympic big air competition, while Switzerland’s Nevin Galmarini rounded off the action at the Phoenix Snowpark with victory in the parallel giant slalom.
Gerard turns on the style
Having fought his way through the ever-demanding US trials, 17-year-old Gerard upset the odds in the slopestyle final, beating pre-event favourite Maxence Parrot of Canada to land his country’s first gold of PyeongChang 2018. Despite leading after two rounds, fellow Canadian Mark McMorris had to settle for bronze, matching his medal at Sochi 2014.
A three-time X Games big air champion, Parrot topped the qualification round but could not prevent Gerard from snatching the gold with an outstanding third run that earned him 87.16 points. Twice a winner on the World Cup circuit in the countdown to PyeongChang 2018, the young American continued his fine form by breaking out a switch backside 1260 on an inventive final run that he then capped with a perfect backside triple cork 1440. Though Parrot landed the same trick in the day’s final run, it was not enough to deny Gerard.
“It feels incredible,” said Gerard, the first athlete born in 2000 to win an Olympic title. “I’m just so happy that it all worked out.”
Peerless White leaves it late
A halfpipe gold medallist at Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010, White regained his title in thrilling style at PyeongChang 2018. Although first in the qualifying round after a stunning second run that brought him 98.50 points, the legendary US rider had to come from behind in the final.
Trailing Japan’s Ayumu Hirano ahead of his third and final run, White threw caution to the wind. Pulling out back-to-back 1440s and a Double McTwist 1260, the trick he is credited with inventing, he moved into the gold medal position with a score of 97.75, one that Hirano could not match on his final descent. A runner-up at Sochi 2014, the Japanese boarder took silver again, while Australia’s Scotty James claimed the bronze thanks to a fine first run.
“It’s one of the most challenging runs I’ve ever done,” said White afterwards. “I’m proud of the other riders for pushing me this whole time.”
White fans may see him again soon on the Olympic stage, as he plans to bid for skateboard gold when the sport makes its debut at Tokyo 2020.
No stopping Vaultier
Vaultier retained his snowboard cross in style, leading the final from start to finish which echoed his star performance at Sochi four years earlier. Taking second place behind him was Australia’s Jarryd Hughes, with Spain’s Regino Hernandez winning bronze – only the third Winter Games medal ever won by his country.
The 2017 world champion and World Cup leader heading into PyeongChang 2018, Vaultier suffered a scare when he fell in his semi-final race. The Frenchman picked himself up, however, and crossed the line third to book his place in the final.
“I have a guardian angel,” he said. “In the semi-final, I stepped out of my binding to push on top of the kicker and finished in third place. My coach said to me: ‘Nothing else can happen to you now. You smash the final.’ And that’s just what happened.”
Vaultier left nothing to chance in the six-man final, hitting the front at the start and staying out of trouble to cruise to the second gold of his career.
“The first one was incredible,” he added. “I came back from injury two months before the Games and it meant a lot. I can’t even say why, but this one means even more.”
Toutant flies high for big air gold
Toutant showed star quality at big air’s Olympic debut at the Alpensia Ski Jumping Stadium, putting together two majestic runs to post a combined score of 174.25 and take the gold ahead of the USA’s Kyle Mack and Great Britain’s Billy Morgan. Newly crowned slopestyle champion Redmond Gerard finished fifth.
Eleventh in the slopestyle and fifth in qualifying, the Canadian saved his best for his first two runs in the final, landing a cab triple cork 1620 and a backside 1620 triple cork of 84.75 and 89.50 to take a lead he would hold onto in the third and final round of jumps.
For Toutant, victory was made all the sweeter after overcoming a pre-Games back injury. “A couple of months ago I couldn’t even snowboard so it feels great that I’m able to ride at my best,” he said. "To end up with gold is awesome.”
Mack owed his silver to a second-run score of 86.75, while a backside triple 1440 with nose grab on his third run gave Morgan 85.50 points and bronze, his country’s fifth and final medal of PyeongChang 2018.
Parallel giant slalom gold for Galmarini
A silver medallist in the event at Sochi 2014, Switzerland’s Galmarini went one better in the parallel giant slalom at PyeongChang 2018, beating the Republic of Korea’s Lee Sang-ho, to the disappointment of the large home crowd. In the bronze medal race, Slovenia’s Žan Košir got the better of France’s Sylvain Dufour.
“I wanted to ride without fear,” said 31-year-old Galmarini, competing at his third Winter Games. “I knew that if it didn’t work out, then I could walk away proud. But it did work out, which is even better.”
After picking up his country’s first ever Olympic medal in the event, Lee, a former junior world champion, said: “I want this medal to be an opportunity for my country, for the government of the Republic of Korea and for everyone to give more support to snowboard so that we can have more people competing in the future.”