Feb. 11 (UPI) — Red Gerard won the first gold medal — and first medal overall — for Team USA on Sunday in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The 17-year-old snowboarder beat out Canadian favorites Max Parrot and Mark McMorris with a final score of 87.16 in the men’s slopestyle final at the 2018 Winter Games. Gerard was the only American to qualify for the final event.
Gerard was in last place before he strapped on his board for a third and final run. He shot up the rankings after putting the course to full use with a series of angled jumps and spins, while landing three clean jumps.
He wrapped up his winning run by stomping his board in the snow for a clean landing after a backside triple cork 1440 on his final leap.
Gerard had to wait to see if his score would stand after completing his run. But McMorris took a spill after Gerard finished. Norway’s Marcus Kleveland also fell. Parrot finished one point shy of Gerard’s final score.
NBC cameras caught Gerard’s reactions after each run was completed. The typically relaxed athlete smiled and chuckled when he realized he was assured of a podium spot, and eventually a gold medal.
The teenage snowboarder said last year that he didn’t really think about the Olympics.
“I’ve never really found myself thinking about [the Olympics],” Gerard said last year, according to NBC. “I feel like there’s just always so much stuff going around that I want to pay attention to. And [the Olympics] are just far ahead, so whatever.”
That trend continued Sunday morning. Team USA’s Kyle Mack told USA Today that he had to wake up Gerard before the event began.
“I can’t believe everything worked out and honestly I don’t think I’ve really had time for it to set in yet. I’m just so happy I got to land a run and just to end up on the podium is awesome. I can’t believe it,” Gerard told USA Today.
Gerard lives in Colorado but is from Rocky River, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland.