The highest score ever awarded in men’s snowboard slopestyle helped Canadian Mark McMorris win back-to-back gold medals at the Winter X Games on Saturday.
Athletes compete in three runs over a course that mixes rails at the top and three jumps on the bottom to win points for technique, style and air reached.
McMorris, the defending champion and the last to compete, pulled his record-breaking run on a victory lap, which he could have cruised through. He had earned the top score on his first run, when he threw a triple cork in the final jump. Although he landed it, McMorris leaned back slightly, earning him a respectable, but imperfect, 94.66.
Despite having the highest score, McMorris went big in his final lap, landing a clean double-backside triple jump for a record-breaking 98.00.
He said that landing the run clean was a long-term goal, and that the triple cork is reserved mainly for competition because of the risk involved, McMorris said.
“I only do it when I have to because it’s pretty scary,” he said. “But it’s worked out for me.”
McMorris also won a silver medal in the snowboard big air competition on Friday night after the 25-year-old Norwegian Torstein Horgmo won gold when he pulled a switch-backside triple cork. During Friday’s competition, Icelandic snowboarder Halldor Helgason landed on his head after he over-rotated on an attempted triple backflip. He was knocked unconscious and taken to the hospital with a concussion.
The event shook McMorris going into the slopestyle event today, he said: “I couldn’t really sleep after what happened last night.”
Still, when it came time to compete, his excitement overcame his anxiety, and he landed his dream run clean.
“This has been such a long time coming,” McMorris said. “... I’m just glad it’s done.”
McMorris appeared to be the only athlete having a good day on Saturday. The flat light caused multiple snowboarders to miss landings, including five-time X Games gold medalist Shaun White. Two of White’s three runs were throwaways after he uncharacteristically missed landings.
“I had trouble seeing the takeoff, and I didn’t see the landing,” White said after one of his botched runs.
White’s lackluster performance came as a relief to McMorris, who said that White was just out of practice.
“He’s got all the tricks, he’s just getting back into it,” McMorris said.
White said he’ll use his performance for motivation for future competitions, and McMorris said he expects White to be back fighting for a spot on the podium soon.
“I’m sure he’ll be knocking on the back door pretty soon,” McMorris said. “Today just wasn’t his day.”
In Saturday’s competition, another Canadian teenager, X Games rookie Max Parrot, earned silver with a triple cork of his own, and Belgium’s Seppe Smits claimed bronze.