PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Red Gerard, Chris Corning and Kyle Mack each came halfway around the world to try to win Olympic gold.
But the only thing that may stand in the way is each other — neighbors from back home.
“We all live so close,” Corning said. “Kyle lives five houses down from me and Red is like a two minute ride from where I live.”
Gerard, Corning and Mack are three-quarters of the U.S. Olympic men’s slopestyle snowboarding team. All three call Silverthorne home — at least in the winter. Mack is from West Bloomfield, Michigan, which he lists as his official hometown.
For a town of just 4,500 full-time residents, Silverthorne will be well represented when the men compete beginning Saturday, with finals Sunday.
“I’m here with all my best friends,” Gerard said. “Kyle Mack lives two minutes from me and we’re always hanging out. It’s so mellow.”
The three snowboarders have been mainstays on the podium through the Olympic qualifier events. Mack, 20, won the Olympic-qualifier U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain in California, while Gerard, 17, won qualifiers last season in Mammoth and again in Snowmass.
“I’ve kind of thought it would be us three from the start,” Corning, 18, said. “I think we have some of the best potential. It’s amazing because it goes to show that maybe a small-town vibe is really good. We all work together and all enjoy the sport.”
Corning moved to Silverthorne three years ago from Arvada, where he grew up. Gerard was born in Ohio, but his family moved to their home in Silverthorne a decade ago.
Mike Jankowski, U.S. Snowboarding and U.S. Freeskiing head freestyle coach, said living near Breckenridge Ski Resort, Keystone Resort and Copper Mountain Resort has given the three snowboarders amazing access to some of the best halfpipes and terrain parks in the world.
“Those are hotbeds for sure, and those guys have those mountains in their backyards, and to be able to ride there every day has really shaped them,” he said.
Gerard seemed completely at ease during a pre-competition press conference Tuesday. In fact, he was stifling yawns as he spoke to reporters from around the globe.
“Sorry, jet lag,” he said, going on to describe how he didn’t grow up watching the Olympics — Dew Tour and X Games were more inspiring to him as he rose through the ranks. He said making the Olympics was a good bonus after the qualifiers over the last year.
“It was never something that was like, the Olympics, I need to go to that,” he said.
Even after arriving in Pyeongchang, Gerard said the enormity of the Olympics hasn’t struck him.
“For me it’s just another contest,” he said. “I’m snowboarding.”
Mack and Gerard, who are rooming together, passed on the opportunity for a first look at the course on Tuesday. Official practice began Wednesday.
“Our coaches came into our room this morning and were like, ‘Yo, you want to go up?’ ‘No! I’m sleeping!’”
The riders will have three rail sections followed by three jumps on the course at Phoenix Snow Park, where the freestyle events are being held. Gerard said he’s expecting some never-before-seen tricks when the competition gets underway this weekend.
“People have been training four years for this,” he said “I have to imagine there’s going to be some new runs coming out.”
And does that include Gerard himself?
“No,” he said. “I’m just hanging.”
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Highway 82 over Independence Pass is closed Tuesday morning for safety reasons after an overnight snowstorm, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.