Three Summit County snowboarders advance to Big Air finals at Olympics
Red Gerard makes cut by quarter-point
A week and a half after his scintillating gold medal victory in snowboard slopestyle, Red Gerard squeaked by in the first Olympic big air snowboard heat to qualify through to Friday’s finals.
Gerard will be joined on Friday by his friends, U.S. teammates and fellow Summit County snowboarders Kyle Mack and Chris Corning. Both Mack and Corning posted better qualifying scores than Gerard at the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre in South Korea, as Mack’s 88.75 was good enough for third place while Corning’s 88 earned him fourth place in the qualifying heat. Gerard came in sixth with a score of 85. The top six advanced.
Gerard was able to qualify by achieving more amplitude on his second attempt at his backside triple cork 1440 with a mute grab — a trick that features three inversions and four full rotations. The slender 17-year-old from Silverthorne appeared to struggle with the size and scale of the trick on his first attempt, which left him on the bubble in seventh place heading into the heat’s second runs. But on his one and only shot to bump up from seventh place into the top six qualifying positions, the regular-foot riding Gerard made the backside triple cork 1440 look effortless while also landing much farther down on the big air course.
Gerard’s qualification wasn’t without nerves, though, as after Gerard went, Great Britain’s Rowan Coultas landed his own backside triple cork 1440 that nearly bested Gerard’s score. Coultas, however, was awarded an 84.50 on his trick, meaning Gerard qualified in sixth place by just a quarter-point ahead of Stale Sandbech’s 84.75, and a half-point ahead of Coultas’ 84.50.
Gerard’s longtime close buddy Kyle Mack — who is a native of Michigan but resides in Silverthorne — looked fantastic on both of his qualifying jumps. Mack also executed a backside triple cork 1440. But on his attempts, the 20-year-old showcased his trademark power, torque and the more difficult Japan grab. Familiar with this Olympic course after performing well in the Olympic test event previously, the truly fearless goofy-footed Mack appears to be a strong contender to medal heading into Friday’s final.
Eighteen-year-old Silverthorne snowboarder and medal contender Chris Corning was also very impressive in the qualifying round as, like Mack, Corning was in a more comfortable position to qualify after he stomped his first attempt at a backside 1440 with a melon grab. But it was his second attempt at the trick that earned Corning the score that would see him through to the final, an 88.00.
Half a world away from the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre, local Silverthorne and Summit County residents cheered on the trio of Corning, Gerard and Mack on Tuesday evening from the Silverthorne Pavilion, where a live stream of the event was broadcast as part of a watch party. Attendees signed supportive comments on a poster for the local Olympians.
Each of them now through to the final, it is expected that both Mack and Corning — and perhaps even Gerard too — will pull out bigger, more difficult tricks come Friday.
On Tuesday, Mack scored only behind big air gold medal favorite Max Parrot of Japan (first place, 92.50) and Sweden’s Niklas Mattsson (second place, 90). Also qualifying through to Friday’s final was Switzerland’s Michael Schaerer (87, fifth place).
The Norwegian snowboard star Sandbech was the odd man out from heat 1, as his score of 84.75 was just barely behind Gerard’s 85.00. The second heat of the big air qualifying round finished after press time on Tuesday. The heat featured the fourth American, Ryan Stassel of Alaska, and other medal favorites including Canadians Mark McMorris and Tyler Nicholson.
The Olympic big air final is scheduled to broadcast live at 6 p.m. MST on Friday and can be seen online at: http://stream.nbcolympics.com/snowboarding-mens-big-air-final
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