We’re just a few short days into the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, in PyeongChang, South Korea, and snowboarding has owned the show. Between 17-year-olds Red Gerard and Chloe Kim securing their first Olympic gold medals and Tahoe’s own Jamie Anderson locking down back-to-back wins in snowboard slopestyle, people around the world—and especially in the United States, thanks in large part to NBC’s primetime coverage—have been bombarded with photos and videos of snowboarders performing high-flying antics. Heck, golden boy Shaun White even took top honors in the halfpipe qualifications leading into today’s medal event; it’s been an all-out snowboarding assault, and we’re lovin’ it.
On Sunday, February 10, 2018, Red Gerard of Silverthorne, Colorado—brother of former Snowboard staffer, Trevor, and thereby a one-time frequent visitor to the ping-pong table here at the Snowboard office—completed the run of his life to win the United States’ first gold medal of the 2018 Games, in snowboard slopestyle.
“I’m just insanely excited right now,” said Gerard, who became the youngest Olympic snowboarding gold medalist in history. “I can’t believe it all worked out. I just wanted to land a run. After falling on my second run, I was really excited for the third run.”
Gerard sat out of medal contention after crashing on his first two of three runs. In an all-or-nothing scenario, Gerard nailed his third run and was awarded an 87.16 for his efforts; said score held up to a challenge from Canada’s Max Parrot, whose third and final run score of 86.00 earned him the silver. Parrot’s teammate, Mark McMorris, bagged an 85.20 on his second run for his second consecutive Olympic bronze medal.
“When that score came up my jaw dropped,” Gerard said. “I was like, ‘this isn’t real.’ I would have been happy to just land a run, but to land a run and win, it’s crazy.”
Gerard’s gold was the second straight Olympic slopestyle gold for the U.S. dating back to the 2014 Games, in Sochi, when Sage Kotsenburg took top honors.
One day after Gerard generated waves that traveled around the globe, on Monday, February 12, 2018, South Lake Tahoe, California-native Jamie Anderson won her second consecutive Olympic gold medal in snowboard slopestyle; she battled strong winds and a strong field of competitors to accomplish the feat. The blustery conditions delayed the start of the event and also stymied many competitors once the competition kicked into gear. Anderson managed to complete a clean run on her first spin through the course, earning an 83.00 that would stand the test of time.
“I realized coming into this year that it was a lot of pressure to defend the title especially with the level of riding escalating at a crazy rate,” Anderson said. “Deep down I knew I could do it. But there were so many variables. When I landed my run, and later knew I had won, I could barely comprehend the emotions.”
Laurie Bloun of Canada earned a 76.33 to land her the silver medal, and Finland’s Enni Rukajarvi, the silver medalist in Sochi, took home the bronze with a 75.38.
Team USA has now won all four Olympic slopestyle events, to date: Anderson has earned repeat wins, Kotsenburg reigned supreme in 2014, and in 2018, as aforementioned, young Gerard kept the U.S. streak alive.
On Tuesday, February 13, 17-year-old Chloe Kim, of Torrence, California, made her highly-anticipated Olympic debut and, as widely expected, earned herself a shiny, new gold medal.
On her first run of the three-run final, Kim secured an impressive 93.75 to take the lead. On her third-run victory lap, Kim nailed back-to-back 1080s—the first in Olympic history—to score a 98.25.
“I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied taking the gold and knowing that I hadn’t put down my best,” Kim said. “That third run was for me… to put down the best run I could do.”
“Standing on the podium was insane, just realizing how far I’ve come as a person and an athlete,” Kim added. Her winning run consisted of a straight-air method; front 10; cab 10; front 9; McTwist; and a crippler 7.
China’s Liu Jiayu took second with a score of 89.75. Arielle Gold of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, nailed her final run to take the bronze medal with a score of 85.75, bumping three-time Olympic medalist Kelly Clark into fourth (83.50).
Fellow competitor Maddie Mastro said about the five-time Olympian Kelly Clark, “[She] has been an amazing inspiration to the whole sport of women’s snowboarding and it’s incredible how much she has pushed to progress the sport. The longevity of her career is another thing to look up to and be inspired by. We all respect her a lot.”
Female halfpipe riders from the U.S. have earned double-podium finishes in each of the last four Olympic Winter Games and have claimed 10 of the 18 medals awarded since the event made its debut in 1998. Kim’s gold marked the 99th Team USA gold medal in Olympic Winter Games history and was the 99th medal won by ski and snowboard athletes since the Winter Games began in 1924.
And if all of that wasn’t enough, Shaun White earned himself a near perfect score (98.50) in the men’s halfpipe qualifications, setting the stage for an exciting final. Furthermore, White leads four Americans into the final round, including Ben Ferguson (Bend, OR) Chase Josey (Hailey, ID) and Jake Pates (Eagle, CO) who finished fourth, seventh and eighth in the qualifier, respectively.
The finals take place tonight at 6:30 p.m. MT and can be viewed via NBC Primetime or nbcolympics.com.