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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Following Red Gerard as he realized the Olympic dream he never had

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Red Gerard was scared.

That’s what he told fellow rider Stale Sandbech of Norway after putting down his gold-medal run in the second-ever Olympic men’s snowboard slopestyle competition in Sochi.

NBCOlympics.com: Women’s snowboard slopestyle qualifying cancelled

Only, Gerard didn’t know at the time that he was going to become the youngest Olympic snowboarding champion of all time and the first U.S. medalist at these Games.

The 17-year-old hadn’t even seen his score yet. Sandbech, the 2014 Olympic silver medalist behind upset champion Sage Kotsenburg, put his left arm around the latest American surprise.

Read the rest of the story and watch Gerard’s gold medal run