Skip to main content

Hodgkin’s lymphoma and rounds of chemotherapy laid him low after a silver medal-winning performance in Pyeongchang. Now he’s cancer-free and has Canada’s first gold medal at Beijing

Max Parrot of Canada competes at the Olympic men's slopestyle final at Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, China, on Monday.Gregory Bull/The Associated Press

After winning Canada’s first gold medal of the Beijing Winter Olympics on Monday, snowboarder Max Parrot thought about where he had been exactly three years earlier: in a hospital bed undergoing chemotherapy.

The 27-year-old from Bromont, Que., was wrapped in a Canadian flag and beaming boyishly as he excitedly relived the run of a lifetime that earned him Olympic gold in men’s slopestyle, an upgrade to his silver at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. Then Mr. Parrot recalled just as vividly how 12 treatments of chemotherapy had drained his body in a Granby, Que., hospital while tangling with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“I had no more muscles, no more energy, no more cardio,” Mr. Parrot recalled. “I almost wanted to quit because it was so hard to get to the next morning. And to be standing here three years later and winning gold, that is completely crazy.”

He was diagnosed at 24, just 10 months after taking silver in Pyeongchang. He’s cancer-free now.

“I was scared a lot of the time,” Mr. Parrot said. “You don’t know how the treatment is going to work. You don’t know what life has got in store for you.”

Parrot celebrates his medal victory.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Mr. Parrot put down what he called the hardest run of his career at Genting Snow Park on Monday, on a course hailed by the competitors for its difficulty. The men performed three runs each on the artificial snow, soaring at high speeds and performing high-flying tricks on its rails, jumps and other terrain park features, its snow-bricked theme inspired by the Great Wall.

Mr. Parrot was not interested in silver or bronze. His best run was his second, and it scored 90.96 points and included three triple corks. Su Yiming of China took silver. Canada’s Mark McMorris earned bronze for a third consecutive Olympics.

“I’ve never done two triples in a row in a run, with that difficulty as well, and everything was so clean,” Mr. Parrot said. “I am extremely proud of myself and to take gold on that run means so much for me.”

Mr. Parrot had to wait for a long time and watch the rest of the field fly down the hill pulling off impressive tricks.

“I was definitely getting impatient for the contest to end,” Mr. Parrot said. “I was nervous. At the same time, I was happy to see my friends snowboarding, I wanted all of them to land the best runs they can.”

At top, Chinese silver medalist Su Yiming's performance is reflected in an Olympic volunteer's goggles; at bottom, Su, Parrot and Canada's Mark McMorris share the podium afterward.Lee Jin-man/AP; Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

A small throng of local fans permitted to spectate cheered wildly for the talented 17-year-old Chinese boarder Mr. Su as he scored 88.70. Then the run by Mr. McMorris was stellar, too, and the popular snowboarder from Regina was stoked at the bottom, flipping his panda-themed board in the air to celebrate.

“I definitely was anticipating a bit higher of a score. I’m interested to watch it back because I thought I was going to be one or two,” said 28-year-old Mr. McMorris, also wrapped in a Canadian flag and jovial after the race. “I think all three of our runs were really similar.”

Mr. McMorris becomes the first Olympian to win three consecutive bronze medals in the same individual Winter Games event. He has overcome his share of injuries, too, and comically listed them all off for reporters – from femur to jaw, hips to knees and collapsed lungs and fractured vertebrae. He joked that it’s been a good year because he hasn’t needed any major surgeries lately.

“That was the best run I’ve ever done and then to do it here and to keep adding new harder tricks in and keep progressing and then to do it three [Olympic] cycles in a row,” Mr. McMorris said. “It’s like pretty special and my longevity, I’m extremely thankful for it.”

Another Canadian, Sébastien Toutant of L’Assomption, Que., placed ninth. He took a big risk by doing a new trick he didn’t have much time to practise. It would have awarded him a big score if he’d performed it perfectly, but he didn’t.

Smiling, Mr. Toutant said he had zero regrets. “I got a new trick that I just learned – backside 14 off the heel – which is something that’s never been done before,” Mr. Toutant said. “In slopestyle, creativity is like a huge factor in the scoring. … If I had a second shot at it, I would probably do the same, but hopefully land the run.”

These snowboarders will compete again at the Beijing Games, when men’s big air takes place on Friday.

Beijing 2022: The day in photos

  • Canada's Alexandria Loutitt, left, celebrates with teammates Matthew Soukup, Abigail Strate and Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes after winning a bronze in the ski jumping mixed team event at the Beijing Winter Olympics.Matthias Schrader/The Associated Press

    1 of 25

Our Olympic team will be writing a daily newsletter to land in your inbox every morning during the Games. Sign up today to join us in keeping up with medals, events and other news.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

Check Following for new articles