Red Gerard can’t pull off golden repeat trick in slopestyle as U.S. fails to medal
Olympic volunteers lined up shoulder to shoulder at Genting Snow Park’s slopestyle course to witness history. They clapped and waved ski poles in the air as, 50 feet below the impromptu audience, Su Yiming stepped onto the Olympic podium.
Su, a 17-year-old Olympic rookie, won China’s first Olympic men’s snowboarding medal, taking home silver in slopestyle Monday. Canadians Max Parrot and Mark McMorris took home gold and bronze, respectively, while defending champion Red Gerard finished fourth.
The home crowd gasped louder with every jump of Su’s runs. When he landed at the base, fans who filled about all of the stands erupted and waved blue and pink flags with the Olympic mascot on them. Chinese coaches and athletes at the bottom hugged and raised a big Chinese flag after Su stomped the final jump on a second run that scored 88.70.
Parrot, the 2018 silver medalist, won with a 90.96, which he secured on his second of three runs.
Su qualified first, a surprising result for a first-time Olympian competing next to McMorris, a three-time Olympic bronze medalist whom Su called his “idol.” Su told reporters he learned how to snowboard by watching videos of McMorris, who qualified second. Su was the youngest competitor in the finals and will turn 18 on Feb. 18, three days after the men’s snowboarding big air final.
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Su was the second teenager in as many Games to finish on the podium for men’s slopestyle snowboarding after Gerard won gold in 2018 at 17.
Gerard put down his best run of the day on his first attempt but fell on his final two. With an 83.25, he waited anxiously as the final four competitors rode.
The wait was “s—ty,” he said. “There’s no better way to put it.”
McMorris knocked him off the podium with an 88.53 on his final run.
“Fourth never feels good,” Gerard said, noting he didn’t completely agree with the judging. “One off from being cool. I’m good, though; whatever, is what I’m saying. I haven’t fully put it together, I feel like, and I’m just happy that I landed the run. Probably the best run I’ve ever done, so just taking the good out of it.
“All in all, I’ll take a fourth place. When I was a kid, I used to be so happy with that and expectations just get a little higher.”
Gerard acknowledged before this slopestyle competition that he didn’t really watch the Olympics growing up. When he arrived in South Korea for the 2018 Games, the grand stage shocked him. He didn’t let on any intimidation, though, as he became the youngest man to win gold in snowboarding. On top of it, Gerard became a social media darling for accidentally sleeping in on the day of the final and borrowing a teammate’s jacket when he couldn’t find his. The internet loved the happy-go-lucky teenager with wild, dirty-blond hair.
Asked whether he would repeat the now-famous faux paus for the sake of a good-luck ritual, Gerard insisted he wouldn’t. He’s learned his lesson in more ways than one.
“I was 17 years old,” Gerard said before the competition, “and [the Games] put me in the spot to force me to mature a little bit.”
Gerard’s post-Olympic media tour took him to New York and on late-night talk show couches he had previously seen only on TV. It was exciting but also stressful. For the monthlong media blitz, he didn’t ride at all. It made him question where he was going with his career.
Moving from snowboarding obscurity to overnight, mainstream fame was “really interesting,” he said. It was a polite way of saying the grueling publicity run was a necessary evil he smiled through that led him to discover his next goal: growing snowboarding.
“That’s a fun thing to try to tackle: to get more people into snowboarding,” Gerard said. “It’s like my passion.”
With Gerard all grown up at 21 years old, he’s passed the mantle of late-sleeping rookie to Sean FitzSimons. The Hood River, Ore., native is known among his teammates — who are also his Olympic roommates — for being the last one out the door every morning.
FitzSimons, 21, was the top American qualifier for Monday’s final, advancing in third place. But he fell on all three runs and finished last in the 12-man final. Chris Corning also fell on his first two runs but rallied for a sixth-place finish with a 65.11 on his final attempt.
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