Years of hard work boil down to a few moments that separate the greats. That’s the deal for every Olympian, and on Sunday at Phoenix Snow Park, the men’s snowboard slopestyle provided an exemplary display of athletes seizing the day.
Canada’s Max Parrot nabbed silver on the very last run of the two-day Olympic contest at PyeongChang 2018, dislodging his teammate Mark McMorris, who takes home his second consecutive bronze in slopestyle since the event made its Olympic debut at Sochi 2014.
“I’m on a cloud even though there are no clouds here,” joked Parrot when he met with the media on the slopes following the traditional flower ceremony that takes place at the venue. The official medal presentation for Canada’s first medallists of these Games will come later.
“It’s my first Olympic medal, so it’s a little check next to that. It’s mission accomplished for me here, so I’m really happy.”
Parrot’s brilliant finale was preceded by another last-ditch, all-or-nothing effort that paid off for Redmond Gerard of the United States. After failing to stay up in his first two outings, Gerard went through the course cleanly on his third and final run to register the best score on the day at 87.16. Parrot notched 86.00 and McMorris on his second effort was given 85.20 from the judges.
An American has now taken men’s snowboard slopestyle gold in both installments of this event at the Olympic Games. Four years ago in Russia, Sage Kotsenburg surprised the field with gold for the United States. Unlike at the X Games, where the more daring tend to prosper, the riders have come to realize that Olympic judges might be looking for something else.
The Canadians – and there were four of them in the final with Sebastien Toutant and Tyler Nicholson – were out to put on a show until Parrot realized the key was to play it safe, but only after he tried to bring the house down on his second attempt of the day.
“It was very hard” to keep the difficulty down, 23-year-old Parrot said. “Especially on that second run, I was going for a safer run – the same run that I did on my third one – but then I saw Mark (McMorris) doing two triples in a row and I was like ‘Oh my god, I can’t go for a safe run, I gotta go for two triples in a row,’ so I tried again, and boom, hit my head again. Then I said ok, the third run I’m going safe and that’s it.”
Up until Gerard got the nod from the judges, McMorris had been the leader following his sensational second run that eventually stood up for bronze. A switchback 12 and a frontside triple among the many in his endless supply of tricks, McMorris was only guilty of a few bobbles that might’ve cost him gold on the day.
“I didn’t really land it that clean,” the back-to-back slopestyle bronze medallist admitted. “I did go pretty big on the last jump but didn’t really put it down that clean.”
By winning bronze in Korea, McMorris becomes the first Canadian male boarder to win two Olympic medals. Dominique Maltais became the first Canadian to achieve this feat when she took snowboard cross silver in Sochi to complement her bronze from Turin.
Since finding the podium with a cracked rib at Sochi, McMorris has made headlines for a litany of injuries in the intervening years. His most recent was a life threatening collision in the woods of Whistler last March. Recovering from such an accident would be a victory for most, but the 24-year-old always had his sights on Korean glory.
“It’s been good, I’m really stoked,” McMorris said succinctly of his experience thus far after trying to outdo his rivals on technical merits, only to falter slightly on execution. His effort went noticed by his fellow medal-winning teammate.
“I can easily say (Mark) had the hardest run on the day today, the most technical one,” Parrot admitted. But he also understood that perhaps that wasn’t the key to finding himself on the podium after hitting the ground on his two opening attempts.
“I saw Red Gerard landing his run, he didn’t have two triples, he was just clean from top to bottom, and I think that was what the judges really wanted to see,” Parrot revealed. “So it made me confident that if I would land my run it would put me in a great position.”
Coming down the hill, a clean backside triple cork 1440 gave Parrot the finish that had eluded him earlier, and with it an Olympic medal. However, neither he nor McMorris are finished yet, with snowboard big air making its Olympic debut this year.
“It’s pretty cool,” McMorris said of big air’s inclusion. “To some people it’s a little easier than slopestyle, and to some people it’s a little harder.”
Although he has won X Games big air gold three times, including recently at Norway 2017, McMorris sees himself as an underdog heading into his next snowboard event, where another showdown with Parrot is expected.
“For some big air people like Max, he’s really dominant in it, but for someone like myself slopestyle is easier because I can build a run from top to bottom with a lot of different technical features.”
Parrot won the X Games Aspen 2018 gold in big air, with McMorris finishing fourth.
“I don’t really have the huge 18s and quad corks to be at the top of a big air podium, but you never know, I’m going to try my best.”
On Sunday, the best effort by Canadians was good enough for two medals, and it shouldn’t shock anyone if maple leaf-clad snowboarders bring two (or more) back from big air later at these Games.