Skip to main content
pyeongchang 2018

Snowboarding - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Men's Big Air Finals - Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 24, 2018 - Sebastien Toutant of Canada celebrates with his national flag.MURAD SEZER

The big air snowboarders came hungry for their own medals, while Canadians watched, hungry for a bit of national redemption in an Olympics where a national winning streak has been temperated by high-profile losses.

On the second last day of Olympic competition, the snowboarders delivered, with another gold in the inaugural outing for the high-flying event, although not quite as expected.

Canada came in hopeful for a two-count addition to its medal tally. Max Parrot has won big air in the last three consecutive X Games. Mark McMorris is another perennial winner who took gold at X Games Europe last year.

But who could dare be certain about anything any more?

Hanging in the air was the string of disappointments that saw Canadians denied their seeming birthrights in curling and hockey in the previous days. Never mind that Canada had already set a new record for hardware accumulation by the time the big air competition launched Saturday morning. For Canada, these Olympics were careering toward a sour end.

It wasn't Canadian statistical glory the big air snowboarder had in their hands. It was the national psyche.

But it was not Parrot or McMorris who delivered a champion's performance on the second last day of the Olympics. Both fell twice.

"I guess it wasn't my day. Pretty tough to swallow. Sucks," said McMorris.

It was instead Sebastien Toutant, a 25-year-old from Montreal who spun his way to gold — landing a cab triple cork 1620 and a backside 1620 triple cork.

"Really, really happy the way I rolled," he said. "It's a big day for snowboarding and I'm glad to be Canadian."

American snowboarder Kyle Mack took silver, while bronze went to Great Britain's Billy Morgan.

Toutant had been plagued for months by back pain, not competing in some of the biggest big air events, including at X Games. He was in the gym working out while others were training on snow.

From November until January, he barely strapped on a snowboard.

"I couldn't ride, you know! I couldn't ride. It was hurting too much," he said.

"So I didn't practice really. And there was no point of just riding down. I know how to ride down."

On Saturday, though, "everything kind of clicked. Like — body felt great, the back was like feeling awesome, no more pain. So my head was clear and I could focus on what I wanted to do."

Parrot attempted a switch triple cork 1800, one of the sport's most difficult tricks but one he landed at the January X Games in Aspen.

A change in weather Saturday made the snow faster and more difficult to see on landing.

"The thing that changed, actually, was the clouds. In practice we had full sun, and then the clouds rolled in," producing flat light, Parrot said.

That made it "hard just to spot the landing."

Toutant's big air gold nonetheless put an exclamation mark on the Olympics, Canada's 28th medal of the Games and its 11th gold.

"This is definitely redemption for Canada," said Jackson Sinclair, 24, a Calgary man who had attended some of the most heartbreaking Canadian performances in Pyeongchang, including the women's gold-medal hockey game and the men's semi-finals in curling and hockey.

"You gotta look at our team through all the sports, and I think we're doing amazing," said Joel Harrison, 23, also from Calgary. "You gotta be proud of our athletes."

Toutant, meanwhile, was just looking forward to doing some more riding. Free of back pain, "I want to go snowboarding still," he said. "I'm not over it at all. I don't feel like it's the end of the season."

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe