Snowboarding 17s Strike Gold
by Alicja Ramotowski
The Olympics are a place where hard work pays off and lifetime dreams come true. This year’s Olympic Games are currently underway in PyeongChang, South Korea. The world welcomed weeks of extraordinary competition between countries and athletes on Feb. 9 in PyeongChang with an intriguing opening ceremony, which followed the story of five young Koreans learning about their culture. The U.S. stepped into the stadium with an astounding 244 athletes on their team, more than any other country has ever brought to the Olympics. Most of the team, 59 percent to be exact, are rookies, who are always a risk, but this year’s newcomers are certainly proving their worth.
The weather conditions of this year’s games have been everything but ideal, and many competitors, especially those in the snowboard and ski categories, have struggled to perform well in the intense wind. Men’s slopestyle snowboarding was no exception. Competitors were falling left and right and many disappointed athletes had to end their runs early, but, as they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
First-time Olympian, seventeen year old Red Gerard, was excited to be at the Olympic games, although he stated he did not expect much from this year’s competition and just wanted to have fun. The newbie placed third in the finals qualifying competition with a score of 82.55. The next day was the finals competition. Gerard admitted that he woke up late, felt “groggy,” and did not feel like getting out of bed, but it’s a good thing he did. After a tough first run in the finals competition, he ended up in seventh place laying down 43.33 points. The second run was just as dissatisfying with a score of just 46.40. However, in the third and final run, something changed in the newcomer. He was “in the zone,” and put up an incredible performance, earning 87.16 points and the United States’s first gold medal in PyeongChang. Nobody expected the youngster from Colorado to nail down such a difficult run with such strong wind and tough weather conditions on his final attempt, including Gerard himself, who was in absolute awe when interviewed by reporters, reiterating that he did not foresee this ending.
But the seventeen year old snowboarder madness does not end there. Chloe Kim, a competitor in women’s halfpipe, who qualified for the Sochi Olympics in 2014 (but was 13-years-old and too young to attend), put on quite a show, as well. In her first run of the finals, Kim scored a 93.75, which was more than enough to bump her into first place. Feeling secure with her first score, she went big on her second try and went for back to back 1080s but could not quite land them. On her third attempt, she put it all out there and it paid off, with a whopping score of 98.25.
Gerard was the first athlete born in the 2000s to win a gold medal, and Kim was not far behind, winning hers soon after. It is by the ingenuity and dedication of athletes like Kim and Gerard that sports evolve and human limits are pushed once again. While watching the events, ex-snowboarders turned commentators exclaimed in awe as competitors landed unbelievable tricks. Just a few years ago, a nine hundred degree rotation trick was a big deal, but now athletes perform flawless 1620s. These first-time Olympians had an amazing debut and have already brought their sport to a new level. Now, people can only wait and see how these two will continue to mold their sport, so be sure to tune into the 2022 games in Beijing, China, where the power duo will likely wow the world again.