By Jack Tarrant
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - American Redmond Gerard claimed the United States’ first gold medal of the Pyeongchang Winter Games on Sunday with his victory in the snowboarding slopestyle competition.
Gerard scored a run of 87.16 to hold off Canadians Max Parrot and Mark McMorris, who finished second and third respectively.
The 17-year-old Gerard, the youngest in the competition, landed a perfect backside triple cork 1440 on his final run and despite Parrot landing the same trick on the final run of the day the judges favoured the American.
Gerard believes taking a risk in the final run was the difference between himself and Parrot.
"I haven't had time for it to sink in yet," Gerard told reporters minutes after the final result.
"I just look for different lines. I thought about (taking an easier line) but then I realised my trick over (the second jump), going straight over, isn't as good so I probably would have got fourth or fifth. So I might as well try and do good."
In a later news conference, Gerard said he was already looking forward and would be taking a break from competition after the Olympics to make snowboarding films.
DOWN TO FINAL RUN
Every boarder had three cracks at the course, with each athlete’s result calculated as the best score of the three as assessed by the nine judges.
Despite frigid temperatures of -13 Celsius, the sun shone down on the fans gathered at the foot of the slope to cheer on the riders. However, it was a strong cross-wind of 2 m/s, combined with nerves, that caused problems for the athletes on their first run.
Over half the competitors suffered a fall on the first run, including a heavy fall for Parrot, before New Zealand’s Carlos Garcia Knight kick-started the competition with a switch backside 1260 on the final kicker to lead after the first heat. He would never improve on that to finish fifth.
With rivals Sebastien Toutant, Gerard and Parrot still struggling to land a clean run, McMorris took control of the contest with a spectacular second run, finishing with a backside triple cork 1620 to score 85.20 and take the lead.
Gerard raised the bar with his backside triple cork 1440 during his final run to take the lead off McMorris and the Canadian couldn’t respond, falling on the final kicker.
Parrot landed the same trick on his third run but could only score 86.00 to finish second. Afterwards, Parrot admitted to feeling the pressure going into the final run of the morning.
"I felt a lot of pressure, especially after bailing my first two runs and not putting a score down. I had to land this run so the pressure was at its maximum level but I think I dealt pretty well with it," Parrot told reporters.
"I knew my run would be on the podium so with that being said I was happy and when the score came out and I was second it was something very special."
It was a disappointing day for Norway, who had three riders in the competition. Sochi Games silver medallist Staale Sandbech was fourth, with teenage sensation Marcus Kleveland a disappointing sixth.
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)