A Canadian has claimed the gold medal in men's snowboard big air, but not the one most people expected.
Sebastien Toutant won the first-ever Olympic title for men's big air, while compatriots Max Parrot and Mark McMorris — the pre-event favorites — both had multiple falls that took them out of medal contention.
U.S. snowboarder Kyle Mack used stylish and creative grabs on his tricks to end up with a silver medal, and Billy Morgan took bronze to help Great Britain achieve its best Winter Olympic medal haul ever.
In the final, each of the 12 riders had three attempts at a trick. Each rider's top two scores were then added together to get their total score, with the caveat that the two scores had to come from different tricks.
Toutant got off to a good start by land a cab triple cork 1620 on his first run. Then he moved on to a backside 1620 on his second run. The backside 1620 ended up being the highest-scoring trick of the day and, when combined with his first-run score, moved him into the lead.
"I had those two tricks in mind I wanted to do for big air," Toutant said. "Landing those, I'm really happy. Didn't matter which position I was going to get, but to end up with gold is awesome."
Two riders who had the tricks to potentially knock Toutant out of that top spot were his teammates Parrot and McMorris, who have combined to win the last five X Games big air competitions.
McMorris started off with his switch backside triple cork 1620 but was unable to land it on either of his first two runs. Without a good score on the board after two runs, McMorris was already of medal contention, so he just floated a method over the jump on his third jump.
As for Parrot, he put a solid score on the board with a backside triple cork 1620 melon on his first attempt. For Run 2, he moved on to the cab triple cork 1800 — one of the biggest tricks attempted in this contest — but couldn't land it. He tried the cab 1800 again on his third run but fell again.
With McMorris and Parrot unable to put down their tricks, and Norway's Marcus Kleveland eliminated in the qualifying round, that left medals up for grabs.
All three Americans in the final were able to land a pair of runs, but it was Mack who shined the brightest and found his way onto the podium.
Mack is known for his creative approach to snowboarding. He didn't attempt 1620s on his first two runs like a lot of the other riders, but he made up for it by using stylish and challenging grabs on his tricks.
The 20-year-old's first jump was a backside triple cork 1440 with a Japan grab. He followed that up with a frontside 1440 with a two-handed grab known as a "bloody Dracula" grab.
No other riders were using such creative grabs on their tricks, and the judges rewarded Mack for it. His total score of 168.75 narrowly edged out Morgan's score of 168.00.
"The whole reason I wanted to do snowboarding is to bring style into snowboarding," Mack said. "It's the main thing I've always worked at. So I'm at the top and I'm wondering whether I should do bloody [Dracula] or just the tail [grab] and I was like, 'I'm doing it for snowboarding,' and I just did the bloody Dracula and it worked out."
After an unsuccessful first jump, Morgan accumulated his score by landing a backside triple cork 1440 with a nose grab on his second run and a frontside triple cork 1440 with a two-handed grab on his third run. His bronze medal is the fifth medal won by Great Britain at these Winter Olympics, a new all-time high for the country.
The best-two-of-three format can create a lot of pressure for riders who fall on their first run, and when that happened to Morgan, he assumed his shot at a medal was done.
"I can’t believe it," he said. "I never saw this moment coming. It blows my mind actually. I didn’t expect that coming into the contest and after I fell on that first jump, I thought it was game over to be honest."
Just outside the medal positions, two more Americans slotted inside the top five.
Chris Corning took fourth place after landing a frontside 1440 melon and a backside triple cork 1440 melon on his first two runs. Knowing he needed to do something big to improve his medal chances, Corning went for broke with a backside quad cork 1800 on Run 3. He was the only rider during the contest to attempt a quad, but he couldn't quite put it down.
Red Gerard finished behind him in fifth place. The 17-year-old won gold in slopestyle earlier at these Olympics but wasn't really considered a medal threat in big air. Though he didn't attempt some of the bigger tricks that the other athletes were trying, he put down two solid runs and finished ahead of medal favorites like Parrot and McMorris.
The United States will end the PyeongChang Olympics with seven total medals in snowboarding (four gold, two silver, one bronze). As of this time, no other sport has accounted for more than four total medals or more than one gold medal for the U.S.
After the competition, Toutant praised the level of riding seen from the top athletes in the field.
"That's why you never really want to switch to another sport because there's always something more you could do on your board," Toutant said. "It's not necessarily more rotations or more flips. Sometimes it's changing the grab, showing the people that you can do something the same but different and there's not many sports out there that you've got the freedom of doing that.
"That's why I love snowboarding so much, and I think that's why it's such a big day for snowboarding, because we got to show at such a high scale what it's all about. I'm just happy to be that guy, that day, who won it."
Gold: Sebastien Toutant (CAN), 174.25
Silver: Kyle Mack (USA), 168.75
Bronze: Billy Morgan (GBR), 168.00
4. Chris Corning (USA), 153.00
5. Red Gerard (USA), 143.00
6. Michael Schaerer (SUI), 140.75
7. Torgeir Bergrem, (NOR), 131.00
8. Jonas Boesiger (SUI), 118.25
9. Max Parrot (CAN), 117.75
10. Mark McMorris (CAN), 72.50
11. Carlos Garcia Knight (NZL), 54.25
12. Niklas Mattsson (SWE), 36.00
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