Toutant takes gold in the men’s snowboard big air final
Sebastien Toutant (CAN) was the inaugural men’s snowboard big air gold medallist at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games after executing the perfect strategy at the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre on Saturday 24 February.
Toutant landed jumps of 84.75 and 89.50 in the first two rounds at PyeongChang 2018 to put pressure on the rest of the field under the best-two-of-three-jumps format. Only Kyle Mack (USA) was ideally placed to challenge as a number of highly credentialed competitors failed to land the spectacular and technical jumps required to challenge for a medal.
“Today I knew I had the tricks and I knew I could've done well, I'm just so happy it's gone my way,” Toutant said. “The format is three jumps, best two count. I put down my first two runs, I mean, that's the best scenario you can ask for.”
Mack eventually took the silver medal after a final round in which only two of 11 competitors landed cleanly, while Billy Morgan (GBR) won the bronze medal. Torgeir Bergrem (Norway) led after the first round from Max Parrot (Canada), while Niklas Mattsson (SWE) injured his hand on landing and withdrew from the competition.
The second round claimed two favourites – the highest qualifier Carlos Garcia Knight (NZL) and Mark McMorris (CAN) – both of whom followed up first-round failures with big tricks that failed to land cleanly. Heading into the final round, Toutant and Mack were in the box seat and able to unleash their best attempt, having already landed jumps scoring in the 80s in both rounds.
Toutant left the door open when he failed to land an attempted switch 1620 jump prompting Chris Corning (USA) to go after the biggest trick in his repertoire, a backside quad cork 1800 that he couldn’t complete. Mack went for gold with an ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful backside triple cork 1620 and when Parrot also missed the landing on his final attempt, 25-year-old Toutant – whose previous best big air result was 3rd at the world championships – claimed the gold medal.
For Toutant, victory was even sweeter after overcoming a pre-Games back injury, then finishing last in the earlier snowboard slopestyle final. “A couple of months ago I couldn't even snowboard so it definitely feels great that I'm able to ride at my best and to put the tricks down,” he said. "I've always been saying, ‘If you're not first, you're last’. I'm always trying my best to get on the podium. I had those two tricks in mind I wanted to do for big air. Landing those, I'm really happy. Didn't matter which position I was going to get but to end up with gold is awesome.”
Mack, who prepared for the event by jumping into an airbag built into a hillside, said he would cherish his silver medal. “It is everything right now, it's so crazy. I've worked so hard to get here and to walk away with a medal today is a dream come true, really,” he said. “I've been training on [the airbag] a little bit, working on some new tricks and just really getting my tricks unlocked. It helped me a lot.”
Morgan recovered well after he fell on his first jump in the final. “After falling on my first run I can't believe I went and landed on my next two. I thought it was game over after the first jump,” he said. “It's been a wild ride, for sure.”