17-Year-Old Snowboarder Gives Team USA First Gold Medal

In the men’s snowboard slopestyle event that was expected to be ruled by Canada and Norway, an upset came on Sunday morning when 17-year-old American Red Gerard – all 5 feet 5 inches and 115 pounds of him – blew his competition away and won Olympic gold for the first time. It was not only his first Olympic medal, but also the first medal for Team USA at the PyeongChang Winter Games. Gerard also becomes the youngest Olympian ever to win gold in a snowboarding event.

Gerard’s slopestyle run focused on unique moves on jump and rail sections that his competitors largely ignored. He successfully landed a switch backslide 1260 on an angled kicker. After that, he did a double cork spin, which isn’t in itself unusual, but he chose to do the spin from the left quarter pipe, whereas most boarders use the center path. His third feat was a triple cork 1440.

His score was 87.16 points, which took the first spot away from Canadian Mark McMorris. McMorris’ teammate Max Parrot, scored a total of 86, which pushed McMorris into third. Scoring works this way: Each competitor has three tries on the course and is scored by the judges using the best score of the three.

It was reported that Gerard thought taking risks in his final runs are what made the difference between the results he posted and those of Max Parrot.

In true sportsmanship style, 2014 gold medalist Sage Kotsenberg, also a creative course rider, noted “Just got the craziest deja vu of all time watching Red stomp that run and take it to the top of the podium! That run Red put down was hands down the best run that happened today, using the course to its full potential.”

Despite the incredible feats he’s accomplished, Gerard is pretty chill about them; a trait which permeates snowboarders’ personalities. As late as last year, he was quoted as saying, “I’ve never really found myself thinking about [the Olympics]. I feel like there’s just always so much stuff going around that I want to pay attention to. And [the Olympics] are just far ahead, so whatever.”

Gerard’s dad, heading a group of friends and family numbering 18, explained further that it might be a generation thing, “Red doesn’t know the size of the Olympics. That generation that really hasn’t watched TV. It was always smartphone stuff. So he never really watched the Olympics. I kept telling him, this is a big deal. You want to do well in it. He said, oh, whatever, X Games is a bigger deal to me. Dew Tour is a bigger deal.”

With Sunday’s win, Gerard hit a few notable feats. He was the first American medal winner of the Olympics, he was the first athlete born in the 2000s to ever medal at a Winter Olympics, and he is the youngest snowboarding champion in the sport’s history. How’s that for panache?

Like Gerard’s dad tried to tell him – this is a big deal.