The men’s snowboard slopestyle final is set up to be a clash of superpowers, as Canada and Norway — the two strongest countries in this event — both qualified their full roster of four riders.
But there is one young American who could upset the balance of power.
Saturday’s qualifying round was divided into two heats. In order to advance to the final, riders needed to finish top six in their heat.
The first heat was dominated by Norway, as three of the top six riders hailed from the Scandinavian country.
The highest-scoring run of that heat was put down by Marcus Kleveland, who landed a cab 1260 and a backside 1440 on the final two jumps. Kleveland is the back-to-back X Games slopestyle champion and one of the top favorites for gold in both slopestyle and big air.
Two of Kleveland’s two Norwegian teammates, Mons Roisland and Torgeir Bergrem, also advanced to the final after finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, in that heat.
No Americans were able to qualify out of the first heat, as Chris Corning and Ryan Stassel both struggled to put down a clean run to the judges’ liking.
Corning was docked on his first run for missing the grab on his frontside 1080. On his second run, a mistake in the first rail section cost him valuable points. He ended up finishing ninth in the heat, just a few points outside of a qualifying spot.
Stassel had trouble right at the start of both his runs and ended up 17th in that heat.
Afterwards, Corning spoke to NBC’s Tina Dixon and was clearly unhappy with his ranking.
“It was a pretty good run,” Corning said. “First trick wasn’t that good, but [I] had all the tricks that were needed. … I’m not really sure what happened [with the judging]. I had two runs that were good. I had to drop first, and that definitely did not help in first runs.”
When the competition moved onto the second heat, it was Canada’s turn to shine.
Max Parrot and Mark McMorris, two of the top favorites, both posted huge scores on their second runs to go 1-2 in qualifying for Heat 2. Their Canadian teammate Tyler Nicholson also qualified out of the same heat, and Sebastien Toutant had already qualified out of Heat 1 earlier in the day — giving Canada four riders in the final.
Norway also will have four riders in the final. Stale Sandbech, the 2014 Olympic silver medalist, got in through the second heat.
The lone American to qualify for the final was 17-year-old Red Gerard, who put down one of the most creative runs of the day. He was particularly electrifying in the second rail section, where he launched a tweaked-out indy air over the hitching post and then went 50-50 to tailslide to 270 out on the rail. That combo produced one of the day’s highest-scoring rail sections from any rider.
Gerard was also heavily rewarded by the judges for using the quarterpipe takeoff on the second jump to land a frontside double cork 1080. Most riders in the field were opting to hit the traditional jump instead of the quarterpipe takeoff on the sides of the jump.
Another U.S. rider, Kyle Mack, had a strong run going until he crashed on the final jump. Mack ended up 11th.
The field was split into two heats, and the top six riders from each heat advanced to the final.
1. Marcus Kleveland (NOR), 83.71
2. Carlos Garcia Knight (NZL), 80.10
3. Sebastien Toutant (CAN), 78.01
4. Mons Roisland (NOR), 76.50
5. Torgeir Bergrem (NOR), 75.45
6. Niklas Mattsson (SWE), 73.53
7. Roope Tonteri (FIN), 72.60
8. Jamie Nicholls (GBR), 71.56
9. Chris Corning (USA), 70.85
10. Peetu Piiroinen (FIN), 69.26
11. Vlad Khadarin (OAR), 64.16
12. Sebbe de Buck (BEL), 59.40
13. Rene Rinnekangas (FIN), 37.91
14. Michael Schaerer (SUI), 37.61
15. Kalle Jarvilehto (FIN), 31.10
16. Mortiz Thoenen (SUI), 23.55
17. Ryan Stassel (USA), 23.50
1. Max Parrot (CAN), 87.36
2. Mark McMorris (CAN), 86.83
3. Red Gerard (USA), 82.55
4. Stale Sandbech (NOR), 82.13
5. Tyler Nicholson (CAN), 79.21
6. Seppe Smits (BEL), 78.36
7. Clemens Millauer (AUT), 77.45
8. Yuri Okubo (JPN), 75.05
9. Jonas Boesiger (SUI), 58.26
10. Billy Morgan (GBR), 56.40
11. Kyle Mack (USA), 53.55
12. Matias Schmitt (ARG), 50.86
13. Mans Hedberg (SWE), 46.25
14. Hiroaki Kunitake (JPN), 43.16
15. Petr Horak (CZE), 41.93
16. Nicolas Huber (SUI), 36.90
17. Stef Vandeweyer (BEL), 33.75
18. Rowan Coultas (GBR), 23.58
NBCOlympics.com will be streaming every round of every competition live online. Here’s how to watch all upcoming live streams for snowboard slopestyle.
Men’s Final: Saturday, Feb. 10, 8:00 p.m. ET
Women’s Qualifying: Saturday, Feb. 10, 11:30 p.m. ET
Women’s Final: Sunday, Feb. 11, 8:00 p.m. ET