Red Gerard wins first Burton US Open slopestyle title; Mark McMorris third | VailDaily.com

Red Gerard wins first Burton US Open slopestyle title; Mark McMorris third

Thanks to whoever helped Gerard's mom into the victory celebration

VAIL — Red Gerard celebrated at the top of the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships slopestyle course in Vail on Friday before his third and final run — a victory lap with first place already locked up. He was then tackled at the bottom by the rest of the field in congratulations.

Thanks to someone helping his mom up and over the fence to celebrate, it was a family affair.

“I don’t really know,” Gerard said of what was happening in the moment. “I was under it all, but thanks to whoever helped get my mom over.”

While the rest of the field was dropping in on their final runs, Gerard waited at the top as the last to drop, choosing to pace around the nearby trees instead of hanging out in the athlete tent.

“I don’t know what I was doing. I was just pacing back and forth waiting for my turn to go,” he said. “I had a song on my phone playing.”

That song would be “Middle Child” by J. Cole on repeat, he said.

Previously, the Silverthorne resident and Olympic gold medalist’s best finish at the Burton US Open was fifth in 2016. Friday was Gerard’s first podium finish since his gold medal in Pyeongchang, South Korea, during the Olympics.

All week, Gerard’s Instagram feed has been littered with videos of him ripping apart the terrain park at Golden Peak. He won the men’s slopestyle finals with a score of 80.5, his score from the first of three rounds.

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“I feel insane. It’s crazy. I never expected that I’d be in the finals at the Open. To win one, I’m speechless,” Gerard said from the finish area.

Sven Thorgren finished second with a score of 79.60 and Mark McMorris finished third with a score of 79.2.

McMorris, the legend

For McMorris, a regular on the podium and four-time Burton US Open slopestyle champ, a third-place finish is just fine.

He threw down on his third and final run, with third place already locked down, but was unable to surpass Gerard or Thorgren.

“A lot of people go their whole careers trying to get on the podium, so I have to remind myself of that,” he said. “And I’m super thankful just to be snowboarding still.”

McMorris suffered a career-threatening injury in the backcountry in 2017 and has made a remarkable return to the sport.

With Gerard showing some nerves, McMorris said he knew exactly what the younger snowboarder was going through out there.

“It’s a good feeling to be in first and watching everybody go, but it’s nerve wracking at the same time, so I know what Red was going through,” he said.

In between his meditation in the trees listening to J. Cole, Gerard stopped to talk to Thorgren.

“It’s funny,” Thorgren said. “I was talking to Red before his last run, he said, ‘Dude, I’m so nervous.’”

According to McMorris, the nerves never go away. But how these snowboarders deal with the nerves is what separates them from the pack.

“I think we all go through the same emotions before a run where your legs feel like they’re not going to work and feel like jelly,” McMorris said.

Assistant editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.