Red Gerard, a 17-year-old snowboarding phenom, is the first member of Team USA to win a gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Gerard, of Colorado, finished ahead of Canadians Max Parrot and Mark McMorris in slopestyle.
“It’s a little bit hard to believe, that’s for sure,” Gerard told ESPN. “I’m just absolutely just mind-blown. I can’t believe everything worked out.”
Gerard needed a big finish after slipping up on the first two of his three runs during the final round. Only the top score of the three runs counted.
“I think I was just a little bit nervous [at first],” he told ESPN. “I was just like, ‘I came all the way out here,’ I was just trying to land a run most of all.”
Gerard is now the second American to win the gold medal in the Olympic men’s slopestyle event in two tries. The event debuted at the Sochi games in 2014 and was won by Sage Kotsenburg, who has since retired from competitive snowboarding.
“Had such crazy Déjà Vu watching!” Kotsenburg tweeted. “So proud of you man enjoy all of this!!”
Gerard and his American teammates, Kyle Mack, Chris Corning and Ryan Stassel, will also be competing in Big Air, which is making its Olympic debut this year. Qualifying for that event is set for Sunday, February 20, with the final on Friday, February 23.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Gerard, Who Was Born in Rocky River, Ohio, Is the Sixth of Seven Kids in His Family
Redmond “Red” Gerard was born in Rocky River, Ohio, near Cleveland, and is the sixth of seven siblings, according to NBC Sports. Gerard, the son of Conrad and Jen Gerard, has four brothers –
Brendan, Creighton, Malachi and Trevor – and two sisters, Tieghan and Asher, who is the youngest.
He first began snowboarding when he was 2. His family then moved to Colorado, near Breckenridge, when he was 7 and his love for the sport really picked up then.
“My mom actually had, I don’t know what you call it, like a midlife crisis,” he told Sierra Sun in November. “Like, ‘I’ve got to get out of Cleveland.'”
Gerard’s website says:
Redmond began snowboarding at age two. He quickly learned as the sixth of seven children that if he didn’t keep up, he’d be left behind. It’s not always easy in a family of nine to get attention. Dirtbikes, bicycles and snowboards were Red’s saving grace. But living in Cleveland didn’t allow for a whole lot of snowboarding. It wasn’t until the winter of 07-08, when Redmond’s mom’s love for the mountains could wait no longer, that the family decided on a trial move to Breckenridge. Here seven year old Redmond got his chance to hone in on snowboarding. Unfortunately, back and forth moves didn’t help his cause, but when back in Cleveland there was always the living room stairs to ride.
When back in CO again, this time in Frisco, Redmond’s brothers began to notice that the little kid was half way decent. They told him he should try a USASA comp. He did, and made it to Nationals. Alas, Redmond’s helmet fell off while competing, disqualifying him, but the next year one of the judges told a rep from Burton about him and next thing he knew, Redmond was a Burton rider.
He landed a deal with Burton at a young age after the company discovered his homemade videos on YouTube. He told The Associated Press he prefers backcountry riding and making videos to the actual competitions, which have brought him to the Olympic spotlight. He has been on the pro circuit since 2016 and made his X Games debut that same year.
Gerard, born in 2000, is younger than any U.S. Olympic male snowboarder, according to NBC Sports. And he stands at 5 feet 5 inches tall, after a recent growth spurt, and weighs less than 150 pounds, according to NBC. But he’s the new face of U.S. slopestyle after 2014 gold medalist Sage Kotsenburg retired at 24 to focus on backcountry snowboarding.
“I don’t know how to describe my style,” Gerard told NBC Sports. “It’s probably whack or something. … If you have good rails, you can take a lot off your jumps where you don’t have to do as gnarly as tricks. Hopefully, if I win a medal, I hope it has something to do with my rails. … Sometimes I don’t have enough speed for all the jumps. Weight plays into that.”
Gerard told NBC Olympics that the weather in Korea actually reminds him of being in Ohio.
“This kind of reminds me more of Cleveland, actually,” Gerard said of Pyeongchang. “There’s so much moisture there. It’s like East Coasty. It’s really cold air and all that. It’s a lot different. Where we usually compete is up high in the mountains.”
2. He & His Family Moved to Colorado When He Was 7 & He Began Training on a Terrain Park They Built in His Backyard
A few years ago, the Gerard family built a terrain park in their backyard in Colorado. It has become a popular place for him and other local snowboarders to train and practice tricks, according to NBC Sports. His Instagram page about the backyard park, “Red’s Backyard,” has more than 5,000 followers.
The family uses a dirt bike with a rope to two riders from one end to the other. Lights allow for late nights. The park at Gerard Farm was his brother Brendan’s idea after he saw the backyard had the perfect slant for a snow park, according to NBC Sports. Brendan and one of Red’s other brothers are also both snowboarders.
“I’d come home and ride the rope tow until night,” Gerard told NBC Sports. “I never thought I’d end up learning tricks in the backyard. There’s been some injuries, a lot of concussions,. I have ate some serious crap back there, for sure. It’s a dangerous little park.”
His sister, Tieghan, keeps Red and his friends fed. She runs a food blog, Half Baked Harvest, with more than 468,000 Instagram followers.
“Sometimes I’ll go down there and grab a whole bunch of food,” Gerard told NBC. “And they’ll be savaging it down.”
Gerard told the Associated Press he hopes the backyard park can inspire other young snowboarders.
“It’s so hard to look at someone doing a triple cork when you’re 7 years old and them saying, ‘I want to go do that,'” Gerard said. “It’s not really relatable at all. So, if I can somehow make it so kids want to get into snowboarding, that’s special.”
Even with how busy Gerard and his family have been in the run up to the Olympics, the park has stayed open.
“There have been times when things have gotten so busy that I’ve told my mom that I don’t think we can keep the backyard running,” Gerard told the AP. “She’s like, ‘Oh, no, we’re going to keep it running, trust me.’ We like having the people over.”
Gerard has admitted that flying through the air can be a bit nerve-wracking.
“It’s a bit scary, but there’s kinda no feeling like it — you know, just flying through the air,” he said in a Players Tribune video. “I mean, I guess I’ve done it so much it just kind of feels pretty natural to me now, but it’s definitely a pretty cool feeling, I would say.”
3. Gerard Secured a Spot in the Olympics With a January Slopestyle Win on the U.S. Grand Prix Tour, Saying After That He Is ‘Psyched to Go to Pyeongchang’
Gerard won the first U.S. Olympic qualifier in Mammoth Mountain, California, in February 2017. He then qualified for the Olympics in January 2018 with a second place finish in Snowmass, Colorado.
Gerard became the second American to win gold in slopestyle in the two times it has been an Olympic event. Sage Kotsenburg won gold in the event’s Olympic debut in 2014.
Kotsenburg told NBC Olympics, “Will be up watching the finals and cheering my man Red on!! So hyped for him! He’s one of my favorite younger shredders to watch.”
Gerard told reporters, “I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. It’s going to be a crazy final.”
“It just takes strategy. There are a lot of creative lines up there,” Gerard told reporters after the qualifying round, according to the Denver Post. “They really kind of killed it on this course I would have thought the Olympics, FIS, it would have been standard rails and standard hits. But this is a crazy course. If you look around, it’s like a jungle there are so many rails.”
At a press conference prior to the start of the Olympics, Gerard told reporters in Pyeongchang, “I’m feeling pretty good. I kind of go into every contest with the same mindset, I just want to land a run. And I am pretty chill, it’s just snowboarding in a way. I’m definitely looking forward to slopestyle more, I’m more of a slopestyle rider, just because there’s a lot more opportunity, there’s rails, there’s lines you can take and all that, and with big air it’s just one jump.”
His teammate, Kyle Mack, told NBC Olympics after the qualifying round, “We all wear the same outfits, but you can figure out who Red is out of everybody. That’s what makes him special.”
Gerard told NBC Olympics he wasn’t really ready for the Olympics until he hit the course.
“I don’t think I was too ready for it [the Olympics], to be honest,” the teen said. “Every checkpoint you go through, you’ve got to go through a security thing, you’ve got to show your credential everywhere you go. I get frustrated. Everybody’s like, you’ve got to just keep your patience.”
4. He Travels With the U.S. Snowboarding Team & Takes High School Classes Online
Red Gerard travels with the U.S. Snowboarding Team and takes high school classes online, not in a traditional school, according to Denver Parent. He told the website that he keeps in touch with his family through Facetime when he’s on the road.
He told Denver Parent that if he wasn’t a snowboarder, he’d probably be a skateboarder, “because you can do that anywhere.” He said when he eventually retires, he hopes to keep working in the snowboarding industry, or be a firefighter, saying “that’d be a sweet job.”
The then-16-year-old Gerard said of his dreams, “Just have as much fun as I can, really…I mean, I’d like to go to the Olympics for sure if it comes that way. If it doesn’t? Keep rollin’ for sure…kinda go with the flow.”
Unlike some Olympians, Gerard doesn’t listen to music when he is getting ready to compete.
“I actually have recently stopped listening to music while I’m competing,” he told US magazine. “I just find it’s kind of easier to just listen to the snow and you know, tell if there’s wind or not.”
He told Limitless Pursuit, “Snowboarding has taken me all over the world, from Switzerland to Austria to China to Australia. Some of the highlights have been seeing all the different cultures and how they compare to ours. Seeing all the different types of food served around the world is pretty cool too.”
Gerard told NBC Sports his dream is to see the best snowboarding spots.
“Honestly, what I would like to do, is get a big RV and travel around all snowboarding spots around North America with a filmer and my friends,” he said.
5. Gerard Has 18 People Cheering Him on in South Korea & Says He Felt a ‘Lot of Pressure’ to Land a Run During Qualifying
Red Gerard has a cheering section of 18 people in Pyeongchang, including his parents, Conrad and Jen Gerard, and all six of his siblings, according to ESPN. After finishing third in the qualifying runs, he told reporters he was glad he didn’t let them down.
“I was just psyched to land a run,” Gerard said, according to ESPN. “It’s a lot of pressure. I don’t want to have them come all this way for me and not land a run. I’m happy I was able to do that and happy they got to join me on this experience.”
But his family was ready to celebrate with him whether he advanced or not.
“I wanted him to make it to finals, but we’re all here just to have fun,” his mom, Jen Gerard, told ESPN. “I told Red before he went out to compete this morning, ‘Just ride like you’re having fun with your brothers. Keep it fun. It doesn’t matter how it all goes.'”