Kyle Mack celebrates winning the silver medal in men's big air at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 24, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea - Kyle Mack was all smiles after his final run at the Olympic debut of men’s big air snowboarding. At a complete loss for words, the Olympic rookie took in the scene, knowing he was moments away from winning an Olympic medal. After the final rider cleared the 39-meter jump and he knew the silver medal was his, Mack’s first thoughts went to the people who had gotten him there – his parents and snowboarding family.
“It was insane. All I want to do is go hug my parents and hang out with them,” Mack explained after earning his first Olympic medal Saturday morning at the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre. “It means everything to me to have them here. They have always been my biggest supporters and I wouldn’t be here today without my mom and dad. The fact I get to celebrate this with them is just next level.”
Known for his fearless jumps and innovation in the sport, Mack registered a combined scored of 168.75 on his best two runs of the final, joining gold medalist Sebastien Toutant of Canada and bronze medalist Billy Morgan of Great Britain as the first men to take home Olympic medals in big air snowboarding. Mack was the youngest rider on the podium at 20 years old.
As top finisher for Team USA in the qualifying round, Mack continued to pull out all the stops in the final. He landed his go-to backside triple 1440 Japan on the first jump and went on to clear a frontside 1440 double cork with a double grab in the back on his second run of the day, becoming the first snowboarder to attempt the trick in competition. Mack named the jump the "Bloody Dracula," and landed it for the first time in the Olympic final when it mattered most.
“The ‘Bloody Dracula’ was a Hail Mary and I was super stoked to land [it],” Mack said. “It’s a frontside with four full revolutions with a double tail grab behind your back.”
Teammate Red Gerard, who won slopestyle gold two weeks earlier in PyeongChang, watched Mack land his unique trick during competition and was eagerly waiting to congratulate him after his silver-medal performance.
“Kyle is like my brother,” Gerard said. “He was doing some crazy stuff today. He did a back triple Japan, which no one does. Then he did a never-been-done trick [called a] ‘Bloody Dracula.’ He just got second place and I’m super excited for him.”
The 17-year-old Gerard finished fifth in the big air final, landing three clean runs to post a two-run combined score of 143.00.
On his third and final run, Mack went for all the marbles, attempting a backside 1620 Japan with his own special twist at the end. Unfortunately, the West Bloomfield, Michigan, native was unable to land the jump, sliding out at the end.
“I like to completely change up tricks and I was really excited to get the chance to throw that [on my last run],” he said. “It was the first time I’ve ever done it and I was close to landing it so I’m just stoked.”
Reigning world silver medalist and U.S. teammate Chris Corning also applauded Mack’s ability to experiment with huge tricks.
“I knew he was going to do really well because he has two really cool tricks that the judges really like because they are so difficult and no one else does them,” Corning said.
The 18-year-old from Silverthorne, Colorado, finished fourth in the final, just missing the podium with a combined score of 153.00. Despite the disappointing result, Corning was proud of Mack.
“I’m super stoked for him,” Corning said. “We all live really close together so we spend a lot of time together. Red picked up gold in slopestyle and now Kyle has silver in big air and it will be really cool to bring our medals back to our town and see all of our friends.”
The trio of Mack, Corning and Gerard are no strangers to success in big air events, having swept the big air podium this season at a world cup in Milan, Italy. Each brings their own unique element to competition, with gold medalist Gerard specializing in slopestyle, world No. 1-ranked Corning excelling in big air and the daring innovator Mack pushing the limits on each of his runs across the board.
“In snowboarding everyone is like my family,” Mack gushed when asked about his teammates. “I’ve known Red since he was so young and to grow up with him and now be on his team is next level. It’s just so fun to be here together. I have such a great team and support with this family.”
With the Olympics winding down, the new medalist looks forward to celebrating with his family, both in blood and in sport.