On the biggest run of his snowboarding career to date, 17-year-old Red Gerard looked so comfortable he may as well have been on his backyard terrain park in Silverthorne, Colorado instead of trying to qualify for the slopestyle final at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
Gerard scored an 82.55 on his first of two qualifying runs on Saturday and ended up the only one of the four U.S. men to make it into Sunday’s final.
The teenager now has the chance to become the youngest American ever to medal in snowboarding at the Olympics.
Riders competed in two different heats on Saturday, with the top six from each advancing into the final. The course proved to be immensely challenging, with riders quickly finding out that the slightest mistake could throw off their timing for an entire run, leaving no room for error. Both Chris Corning and 2014 Olympian Ryan Stassel competed in the first heat and finished ninth and 17th, respectively.
Gerard’s heat included Canadians Mark McMorris, the 2014 bronze medalist in the event, and Max Parrot, both of whom are among the medal favorites. But Gerard, also considered a serious contender for a medal, is famously chill and didn’t appear to be feeling anything close to nerves as he made his Olympic debut.
He was in third place at the conclusion of the first run behind McMorris and Parrot and although he didn’t score as high on his second run, he didn’t have to. Gerard’s first-run score was all he needed to earn his spot in the final.
Kyle Mack was also in the second heat with Gerard. He was 11th after his first run and put together a solid second run before a fall on the final jump eliminated him.
All four will also compete in big air, which makes its Olympic debut starting Feb. 21.