Marcus Kleveland overcomes injury to win snowboard slopestyle gold at worlds
Summit County’s Red Gerard led the American contingent in Friday’s men’s snowboard slopestyle final at the world championships in Aspen, but it wasn’t enough to sneak onto a star-studded podium led by Norway’s Marcus Kleveland.
Kleveland, a four-time X Games champion, including Aspen big air gold only six weeks ago, nearly dropped out of the final after hurting his leg in training.
“I was about to go take an X-ray, but I wanted to do it. So I went back up and did the contest. And I’m happy about it now,” Kleveland said. “For sure was a little bit nervous, because my leg felt kind of weak. But as soon as I dropped in I didn’t feel any pain and was so focused on what I was going to do. I’m so happy of the day.”
Friday’s final was a massive 16-man field, down from the more than 50 who competed in qualifying on Wednesday. With only two runs in finals to impress the judges, Kleveland wasted no time and scored 86.86 on his first run, which would have been enough to win the contest. He didn’t stop there, however, scoring 90.66 on his second run, primarily by turning his Cab 1440 (four rotations) on the final jump into a Cab 1620 (four-and-a-half rotations).
This was Kleveland’s first slopestyle competition at world champs. He did compete at worlds in 2017, winning big air bronze. He did not compete at worlds in 2019.
Canadian veteran Sebastien Toutant won silver on Friday, scoring 82.53 on his first run. The 28-year-old is a two-time X Games champion, going back to his slopestyle win in 2011, but this was the first time he’s ever competed at the world championships.
“The course was perfect. The weather was perfect. The boys were killing it. Hyped I got second place today,” Toutant said. “Any podium, it’s the best feeling ever getting back on it. I’m stoked I’m still in shape and I love snowboarding.”
Winning bronze was Finland’s Rene Rinnekangas, who like Kleveland is 21 and one of the sport’s most popular and talented young riders. Like so many his age, he idolized snowboarders like Toutant growing up. Toutant’s career highlight is arguably his big air gold from the 2018 Winter Olympics.
“Snowboarding never felt this good,” Rinnekangas said. “I’ve been watching Seb since I was a little kid, and same with Marcus even though we are the same age, but just watching X Games, him and Seb riding in X Games, it’s an amazing feeling to share the podium with those guys.”
Gerard, the reigning Olympic slopestyle champion, was fourth with a first-run score of 82.28. Japan’s Kaito Hamada was fifth (80.23), Canada’s Max Parrot was sixth (78.60) and California’s Dusty Henricksen was seventh (77.90). Henricksen emerged onto the scene at X Games Aspen in January by winning two golds as a rookie, including becoming the first American since Shaun White in 2009 to win X Games snowboard slopestyle.
Colorado’s Chris Corning finished 11th (72.41) and Hawaii’s Lyon Farrell was 12th (70.63). Corning entered as the reigning world champion, winning in 2019 after he led qualifying and the finals were canceled due to weather.
California’s Judd Henkes was the only American to not make finals this year. Also among the big names to not have made finals was Canada’s Mark McMorris, who has more X Games medals than any other winter athlete despite having missed this year’s X Games competition after getting a positive COVID-19 test. McMorris won worlds silver in 2019, while Henkes had been the reigning bronze medalist.