PYEONGCHANG (South Korea) • Teen sensation Red Gerard nailed a tension-packed final jump yesterday to win the slopestyle snowboarding and become the first Winter Olympic medallist born this century.
Aged 17 and 227 days, he handed the United States their first gold of the Pyeongchang Games with his slopestyle win, making him the youngest American Winter Olympic champion since 1928.
Gerard, born on June 29, 2000, also set a record for the youngest gold medallist in any snowboarding event that was held previously by Kelly Clark, the 2002 women's halfpipe champion at age 18 years and 199 days.
"I cannot believe it," said Gerard, who wants to attend film school for the next two years. "I'm shaking right now, maybe from the cold, or the excitement. I don't know. But I'm ecstatic. I can't believe it.
"Just to land a run would have been plenty for me and to get on the podium, but to get first is crazy."
He landed a backside triple cork - a triple-twisting trick with a flip - to score 87.16 points on his final run to snatch victory from Canadians Max Parrot, who took silver with 86.00 points, and Mark McMorris (85.20 points), who picked up a second bronze after Sochi four years ago. The only younger individual Winter Olympic champion than Gerard was Finnish 16-year-old ski jumper Toni Nieminen in 1992.
Just eleven months ago, McMorris had been fighting for his life after breaking 17 bones and suffering a collapsed lung and ruptured spleen in a snowboarding accident.
History was also made at the Gangneung Ice Arena yesterday. Evgenia Medvedeva set a new world record in the women's figure skating short programme, with a skate that helped the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) into second place in the team competition.
Medvedeva, the reigning world champion who is competing in her first Olympics, was awarded 81.06 points, sparking cheers from Russian fans in the crowd.
"I know what I can do better. On a scale of five, I'd give myself a four, maybe a bit less, a four minus a quarter," she said after bettering her previous world record set last year (80.85 points).
After yesterday's concluding pairs free dance, Canada, silver medallists in 2014, led on 45 points from OAR on 39 with the US third on 36. The event's final rounds take place today.
Medvedeva, 18, overcame a number of hurdles to make it to Pyeongchang, including a broken foot that forced her to drop out of the Grand Prix Final last year and a doping scandal that cast doubt on whether the Russians would be allowed to participate at all.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS