Red Gerard

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Max Parrot wins X Games snowboard big air, one year after cancer diagnosis

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Canadian Max Parrot won the biggest annual contest in big air snowboarding, 13 months after being diagnosed with cancer.

Parrot captured the X Games Aspen big air title on Saturday night, his sixth career gold medal in Colorado. But his first since Dec. 21, 2018, when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma.

“Just to be out here, one year later since I wasn’t here last year, that’s already amazing,” Parrot, who announced July 25 that he beat cancer after 12 rounds of chemotherapy, said on ESPN.

Parrot, an Olympic slopestyle silver medalist, landed a cab triple cork 1620, backside 1620, frontside triple 1620 and a cab 1800, according to broadcasters. He relegated countryman Mark McMorris to silver.

X Games events this year are scored in a jam-session format, where riders are ranked on overall impression rather than a single best run.

McMorris tied Shaun White‘s record of 18 Winter X Games medals across all sites, including in Europe. Parrot also won his comeback event at X Games Norway on Aug. 31.

Later Saturday, the U.S. was shut out of the women’s halfpipe medals for the first time since the X Games moved to Aspen in 2002.

Spain’s Queralt Castellet ended the Americans’ 10-year run of gold medals that included Kelly Clark (now retired) and Chloe Kim (taking the year off to study at Princeton). Maddie Mastro, who beat Kim at the 2019 season-ending Burton U.S. Open, failed to land her signature double crippler and finished eighth. She was the only American in the field.

Two nights earlier, the U.S. failed to earn a men’s halfpipe medal for the first time at an Aspen X Games.

Earlier Saturday, two-time Olympic slopestyle champion Jamie Anderson won her sixth X Games Aspen title, one year after missing the slopestyle event after taking a hard fall in big air. Anderson has earned an X Games medal in all 13 of her slopestyle appearances dating to 2006, when she debuted at 15.

In other Saturday events, Canadian Darcy Sharpe won men’s snowboard slopestyle, while U.S. Olympic champion Red Gerard was third for his first X Games medal.

American Colby Stevenson won a ski slopestyle final that lacked Gus Kenworthy, who was seventh in qualifying. Estonian Kelly Sildaru added a ski halfpipe crown to her three slopestyle titles.

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Red Gerard parts with gold medal (briefly) as he returns to slopestyle

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Red Gerard‘s gold medal is damaged. His desire to compete remains in tact.

“The gold medal is, honestly, not doing too good,” Gerard said in a recent interview in New York City.

The 18-year-old snowboarder then unfurled the medal from his pocket and pointed to an adorning clip.

“It took a little beating,” he said. “It broke. We’re going to get it fixed.”

Like many Rio Olympic medalists, Gerard said he planned to send his medal off for repairs. It is a historic one.

Nine months ago, the sixth of seven kids from a Colorado snowboarding family became the first American to take gold in PyeongChang. He became the youngest Olympic snowboarding champion and the youngest individual male U.S. Winter Olympic champion. Eighteen family members made their own headlines, partying at the bottom of the slopestyle course.

Gerard was an underdog in South Korea, not just in stature (not quite 5 and a half feet), but by his previous results. He had not made a podium at the X Games or U.S. Open. His two top-level wins came in California and Utah events without the top Canadians and Norwegians in the field.

Really, it was reminiscent of friend Sage Kotsenburg, whose second slopestyle win in nine years came at the event’s Olympic debut in Sochi. Kotsenburg entered seven contests in his follow-up season, according to World Snowboarding, then faded out of competition to focus on making snowboard films, ultimately announcing retirement at age 23 in 2017.

While Gerard also enjoys filming, he plans to carve a different path.

“I love doing contests,” he said, “and I love the exhilaration that you get from them.”

Gerard already competed in New Zealand in September, placing 21st in a big air event. His season begins in earnest in December with the Dew Tour in Breckenridge, Colo., then the X Games in January, world championships in Park City in February, plus the U.S. Open in Vail.

Maybe one of those days will be like the Olympics. Gerard credited his PyeongChang success to the course suiting him. He chose off-path features on the rail and jump sections that others ignored, not winning solely on the back of big tricks.

“Every contest, there’s a different person that wins, for the most part,” he said. “I’m super psyched that it just so happened for me, it was the Olympics.”

Minutes after winning in PyeongChang, Gerard said he didn’t know about 2022. He only knew that he wanted to do snowboard filming.

“I 100 percent want to go into 2022,” he said last month. “Definitely that’s on my list. But also filming is one step ahead for me right now. Filming is always something I’ve had a passion for. That’s my goal for next year, then after that I’ll go back to contests and focus more on that.”

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Red Gerard is fourth American born in 2000 to qualify for Olympics

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Red Gerard, who learned to snowboard in his backyard, is going to the Olympics in slopestyle and big air.

The 17-year-old scored an 87.28 to win for the second time in four U.S. qualifying events and book his spot in PyeongChang on Friday.

Gerard landed a switch backside 1260 and backside triple cork 1440 in his second of three slopestyle runs in Snowmass, Colo.

The start of Friday’s final was delayed by an hour due to weather. The last jump was taken out.

Gerard will be one of at least four athletes to be the first Americans born in the 2000s to compete in the Winter Olympics.

Figure skater Vincent Zhou, short track speed skater Maame Biney and fellow snowboarder Chloe Kim are the other 2000 babies to qualify so far. A few more could join them.

Gerard joined Chris Corning in qualifying for the U.S. Olympic men’s slopestyle and big air team that will end up being either three or four riders.

The third and final automatic qualifier — decided after next week’s last qualifier — will likely be one of Sochi Olympian Ryan StasselChandler HuntKyle Mack and Judd Henkes (born in 2001).

Stassel and Hunt were the other two Americans in Friday’s final, finishing seventh and eighth.

In the women’s final Friday, Americans Jessika Jenson and Ty Walker finished fifth and seventh, respectively.

Sochi slopestyle champion Jamie Anderson already qualified for PyeongChang.

Jenson and Walker, a pair of 2014 Olympians, and would-be first-time Olympians Julia Marino and Hailey Langland are in contention for the last two automatic Olympic spots next week.

Gerard is stronger in slopestyle than the new Olympic event of big air.

Competition continues the rest of this weekend with snowboard halfpipe and ski halfpipe and slopestyle. A full preview and broadcast schedule is here.

Gerard, born in 2000, is younger than any previous U.S. Olympic male snowboarder. He is about 5 and a half feet after a recent growth spurt of a few inches. Not even 150 pounds.

He towered above the competition at the first Olympic qualifier last February in Mammoth Mountain, Calif., notching the biggest win of his young career.

Gerard was fifth and seventh at the last two U.S. Opens and 14th at his X Games debut last season. No American finished in the top six at X Games for the first time in at least 15 years.

No U.S. man has made an X Games Aspen podium in slopestyle or big air since 2012, and Sochi Olympic champion Sage Kotsenburg has retired.

None of the Olympic favorites — Canadians Mark McMorrisMax Parrot and Tyler Nicholson and Norwegians Marcus Kleveland and Ståle Sandbech — were in Friday’s field.

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings
Snowboard Big Air/Slopestyle (through four of five events)
1. Chris Corning — 2,000* QUALIFIED

1. Red Gerard — 2,000* QUALIFIED
3. Chandler Hunt — 1,400* (2nd and 3rd)
4. Kyle Mack — 1,000* (2nd and 13th)
5. Ryan Stassel — 1,400 (2nd and 3rd)
6. Judd Henkes — 1,100 (3rd and 4th)

1. Jamie Anderson — 2,000* QUALIFIED
2. Julia Marino — 1,600* (1st and 3rd)
2. Hailey Langland — 1,600* (2nd and 2nd)
4. Jessika Jenson — 1,600 (1st and 3rd)
5. Ty Walker — 1,300 (2nd and 4th)
*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result against entire contest field.

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MORE: Athletes qualified for U.S. Olympic team

*Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported the highest possible score in the final was an 87.5.