A healthy McMorris happily takes silver in snowboard big air as Otsuka wins gold
With everything Mark McMorris has done in his career, the Canadian legend usually looks fearless on a snowboard.
But Friday, before dropping in for his first run in the X Games Aspen men’s snowboard big air contest, McMorris admitted to being a bit timid.
“I tried to take a nap this afternoon and sweated the whole time,” he said following the competition. “This is the craziest sport and all the young kids aren’t scared at all, and I’ve broken everything. So I was freaking out. But once you get into it, you start to get comfy.”
McMorris, 25, had surgery a month and a half ago to remove a couple of pins from his leg. Friday was only his fifth day on snow this winter.
In spring 2017, McMorris seriously hurt himself filming in the Canadian backcountry. He went off a jump and hit a tree, leading to a broken jaw and left arm, ruptured spleen, pelvic and rib fractures, and a collapsed lung. Considering the remote location, it was borderline life threatening.
Something like that makes it easier to enjoy a major competition like X Games.
“I’m really glad to be doing this again and having fun and feeling healthy,” McMorris said. “Thankful to be back snowboarding. Just had surgery and got through the gnarliest event in snowboarding, X Games big air. Was happy with the things I did.”
McMorris finished second in Friday’s big air competition with a combined two-run score of 85, losing to Japanese teen sensation Takeru Otsuka. Otsuka, only 17, scored 88 with two strong tricks to take his second X Games gold in only two contests. His other came in X Games Norway in 2018.
“Takeru is amazing,” McMorris said. “I’ve known about him for the last couple of years, and he’s a super friendly kid. Super talented, and I think he’s really respected by the snowboard community, so that’s really cool. He’s got a bright future and I can’t wait to board with him more.”
McMorris, the last to drop in, already had silver locked up. Instead of going for the gold, he did a simple method on his final run to concede the gold to Otsuka. It was another way for McMorris to say he’s simply happy to be in Aspen.
“I didn’t want to risk anything on the last one. I’m just so happy to be able to enjoy my season. So did something for the fans,” he said. “I don’t want to ever let people think that I don’t care, but I love snowboarding so much and this is just one night out of the whole year. If I can be happy with my performance, then second is fun.”
It was the 16th X Games medal for McMorris, and 14th in Aspen. Of those 16, seven are gold, his most recent win coming in big air at X Games Norway in 2017.
Finishing with bronze Friday was Sweden’s Sven Thorgren, who put down a rare and impressive triple backside rodeo for a two-run combined score of 76.
Notably absent from Friday’s competition was Max Parrot, who recently announced he had cancer and would miss the remainder of the season. He posted on his Instagram account right before the contest, writing “Last time I’ve watched it on tv was when I was a kid, dreaming of being there one day! Just like I feel tonight!”
Parrot, a Canadian like McMorris, had won four of the past five big air contests in Aspen, including the last three.
Finishing sixth was Summit County’s Chris Corning, competing at X Games for only the second time. Corning led for a bit early in the contest and nearly landed his iconic quad, but seemed to hurt his leg late in the contest and did not return.
Both Corning and McMorris are expected to compete in Saturday’s 1 p.m. snowboard slopestyle contest, where McMorris is the reigning bronze medalist. Corning finished third in Friday’s qualifying.
“It’s supposed to be a perfect day and I would love to take that one,” McMorris said of slopestyle. “But like I said, I just want to ride my best.”
Last Friday, the Aspen Art Museum capped its second annual ArtWeek with a big fundraiser. The proceeds will help fund art education and accessibility for the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond.
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