Silverthorne snowboarders Gerard, Corning, Mack sole Americans to qualify for X Games slopestyle final
Summit County’s young snowboarding trio has become quite the Rat Pack of slopestyle.
Just days after Red Gerard, Chris Corning and Kyle Mack officially were named to the U.S. Olympic team, the Silverthorne riders carried their success into X Games Aspen on Thursday afternoon.
The Summit County locals were the only Americans of five boarders total who qualified from a group of 16 international stars to Saturday’s slopestyle finals at Buttermilk Mountain.
Gerard’s second run earned a score of 92, the best qualifying mark on the afternoon as Corning and Mack — a native of West Bloomfield, Michigan — comfortably qualified into the final with first-run scores of 84.00 and 82.66, respectively.
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Though the 17-year-old Gerard registered the top qualifying score, he was the sole member of the Summit County trio who entered his final qualifying run with full pressure on him. Gerard was awarded just a 47.00 for his first run, which put him in seventh after the first round.
But after receiving instructions from his coach to “go fast and take chances,” before dropping in for his final run, Gerard put together a confident second run to earn that 92. The run included a very smooth backslide 270 in the course’s rails section and a switch backside 1260. But it was Gerard’s execution of a trick that gave him trouble on his first run, a soaring backside triple cork 1440, that punched his top ticket to Saturday’s final.
After Gerard was awarded the 92, Corning was waiting for him at the base of the course to give him a hug.
“I’m psyched to be in the final. “Should be a fun one,” Gerard said moments after his second run.
“Chris is one of my good friends right here,” he added, “and he rips so hard, so it’s really nice having some homies in the final.”
Mack, 20, is a longtime friend of Gerard’s and is tight with the Gerard family, namely Gerard’s older brother Malachi, who he regards as one of his best friends.
“He’s such a G,” Mack said of Red Gerard, “such a cool homie and he’s always supportive and I’m always supportive of him, and to go with him is pretty sick and to make finals with him, too, is awesome.”
Mack entered Thursday’s X Games qualifier fresh off a win at the Olympic-qualifier U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain in California that punched his ticket to Pyeongchang.
After the competition, Mack was showered with comments such as “keep up the momentum,” from passersby as he added that he felt really good heading into the qualifier despite still recovering a bit from a high-left ankle sprain suffered earlier in the season. It’s on the goofy rider’s back foot that provides most of his power.
“It’s kind of been bugging me, but it’s slowly getting better,” Mack said, “and the best thing I can do is stay off of it.”
The trio will be joined in the final by Thursday’s second-place qualifier Darcy Sharpe of Canada (88.33) and fifth-place qualifier Yuki Kadono of Japan (77). Last year’s X Games champion Marcus Kleveland of Norway and 2017 medalists Tyler Nicholson and Mark McMorris of Canada automatically are placed in Saturday’s final.
When Gerard, Corning and Mack snowboard during Saturday’s 1 p.m. final, they’ll be riding to earn the United States its first X Games men’s slopestyle medal since 2012 and the U.S.’s first gold since Shaun White won the competition in 2009.
“It’s pretty sick to see all three of the Americans who are going to the Olympics make the finals,” Mack said. “It’s so just cool to see the momentum rolling. Just try to bring it on to the next one.”
The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics snowboard slopestyle qualifiers will take place on Friday, Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. mountain time at Phoenix Snow Park, while the finals will take place at the same time and location the following day. Men’s slopestyle and big air snowboarders will get a 10-day break before the inaugural Olympic big air qualifications take place at Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre live on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 5:30 p.m. mountain time. The men’s big air finals are scheduled to take place live at the same location at 6 p.m. mountain time on Friday, Feb. 23.
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Wayne Hall took a job as an air traffic controller at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport in 2003 thinking he would stay for a short time. Instead he stayed for nearly 17 years and was promoted up to the position of air traffic manager. He reflected on the experience upon retirement.