Max Parrot of Canada wins gold in men’s snowboard slopestyle
By John Branch
The slopestyle course at Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, China has received mostly rave reviews for its difficulty and Great Wall-themed design. On Monday, its centuries-old evocation, made of snow, served as a stage for some next-era acrobatics.
Twelve finalists in men’s snowboard slopestyle took three turns each, navigating a series of tricky rails (and one snow-covered faux rooftop meant to look like a guardhouse) and three giant jumps, a can-you-top-this exhibition. Only their best score counted.
In the end, it was Canada’s Max Parrot who claimed gold, followed by Su Yiming of China and Mark McMorris of Canada.
Su, 17, arrived as the biggest wild-card, a possible show stealer. Most Chinese snowboarders did not compete internationally the past couple of years because of the pandemic. The team reemerged on the global circuit this winter with a deep roster and a litany of impressive tricks.
Su won the season’s first big air competition, in Colorado, and then had the best qualifying score in the Olympic preliminary heats Sunday.
That made him an instant celebrity in China — he was already known by some as a child actor, according to Chinese state media.
He had a solid first run in the final, then a spectacular second one. With a front flip off the guardhouse near the top of the course, he landed three big jumps. The last, an 1800 (five rotations), ended with Su thrusting his arms in the air, lifting fans in the grandstand to their feet, flags waving.
It was a dizzying show throughout. Some of the attempted tricks had so many spins that they were hard to count without slow-motion replay. After each run, the judges studied the moves, counted the rotations, assessed the style and spit out numbers that shuffled the rankings.
Defending Olympic champion Red Gerard of the United States took an early lead by landing a pair of 1620s (4 1/2 rotations) sandwiched around a double-cork 1080, with its off-axis, corkscrew rotation. Judges scored it at 83.25 points
That was the score that others chased. Parrot passed it first, with a 90.96 on his second run, with three consecutive triple corks.
The real chase was on.
McMorris, the top competition rider of the past decade and Su’s idol, was searching for his first Olympic gold medal. He earned a bronze medal at both the inaugural Olympic slopestyle contest at the 2014 Sochi Games and the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, each performance hampered by injury.
McMorris, 28, arrived in China as strong as ever. Two weeks ago, he won the X Games, but he knew that he would have plenty of competition in the final — Parrot, Gerard and Stale Sandbech of Norway among them.
He landed a clean second run that lifted him to third.