By Karen Price | Jan. 12, 2018, 2:05 p.m. (ET)

 

At just 17 years old, Red Gerard qualified among a pool of talented athletes for the U.S. Olympic men’s slopestyle snowboarding team with a win at the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix at Snowmass in Colorado on Friday.

It was the fourth of five Olympic qualifying events for Team USA’s combined slopestyle and big air Olympic team, and after winning the first slopestyle event last season at Mammoth Mountain in California, Gerard needed only to be the top American this weekend in order to solidify his place on the team.

Chris Corning had already clinched his spot on the men’s slopestyle snowboarding team after the Dew Tour in mid-December. He was the top American there when he placed second and also the top American (second overall as well) at the big air world cup at Copper Mountain, Colorado, one week prior.

Gerard was fourth at the Dew Tour, the second-best American.

In Friday’s final, Gerard clinched the win with his second-run score of 87.28. Highlighted by the first triple cork of the competition, it was an almost perfect score since the last jump of the course was eliminated after weather delays. Gerard also scored 87.16 in his third and final run. Japan's Hiraoki Kunitaki was second with an 83.64, while Tiarn Collins of New Zealand rounded out the podium after scoring 83.57.

The other two Americans in the final, Ryan Stassel and Chandler Hunt, finished seventh and eighth with scores of 74.77 and 68.47, respectively.

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Now, the teenager from Silverthorne, Colorado has the chance to become the youngest American snowboarder to medal at the Olympic Winter Games. Kelly Clark currently holds that distinction, having won gold in 2002 at 18 years old. Although Chloe Kim, who officially made the Olympic team with her win in halfpipe snowboarding on Friday, is favored to top the podium in PyeongChang, Gerard is two months younger.

Gerard’s first season as a professional rider was 2015-16, and the next season he stood out as one of the best in his sport.

In addition to his win at Mammoth last season, he was third at a slopestyle world cup in Kreischberg, Austria, in January. His strong season led to Gerard being crowned the 2016-17 FIS World Cup slopestyle snowboarding season champion and placing fourth overall for snowboarders.

He started this season by leading a U.S. sweep at a big air world cup in Milan. Big air makes its Olympic debut in PyeongChang.

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.