Days shy of his 18th birthday, Su Yiming of China followed up last week's silver in slopestyle by earning another Olympic medal Tuesday, landing a pair of 1800s on his first two runs of the men's big air final to strike gold.
The first Chinese snowboarder to win a Winter Games title stomped a frontside 1800 tailgrab on his first run for a score of 89.50, then went absolutely enormous on Run 2 with a backside triple cork 1800 for a 93.00. His combined winning total of 182.50 was nearly 11 points higher than the next-closest competitor.
"I had many dreams when I was a child. To be an Olympic champion was one of them and today I already realized my dream," Su said. "There will be more and more challenges in the future. I will be more concentrated on my goals. All I need to do is to deliver all my efforts to achieve my goals."
In a fitting quote for the Valentine's Day season, he explained what it's all about:
"The most important thing though is all about love. Snowboarding is not just about competition," he said. "You see here every rider from a different country, we're all doing the same thing – we love snowboarding. This is just out of our love."
Norwegian Mons Roisland soared 28 and 29 feet above the table on his two best jumps for silver. The 2021 world bronze medalist threw down a frontside 1800 on Run 1 for an 89.25, and combined it with a massive backside 1620 Melon grab for 82.50 to total 171.75.
"I put down all three runs, tricks that I was just so stoked to put down, and I'm blown away," he said. "I'm still shivering and super happy … I just wanted it so bad. I was just convincing myself that there was no chance I'd fall. I was just trying to make it happen."
Canada's Max Parrot, runner-up at the most recent X Games and world championships, fought back to take bronze eight days after capturing gold in slopestyle. He tried to go cab triple 1800 on his first run but gave it too much torque and missed the landing. Then, with the pressure on, the 27-year-old Quebecois nailed the trick for a 94.00. On Run 3, Parrot landed a frontside triple cork 1620, and although solid and clean it wasn't on par with the 18s.
"I was never expecting to earn a gold last week after what I'd gone through two, three years ago with cancer," Parrot said. "And now to get a second medal at the same Olympics one week later is just mental.
"I've never seen so many 1800s landed in snowboarding … Today was the most insane final we have ever seen in snowboarding."
Americans Red Gerard and Chris Corning placed fifth and seventh, respectively. Gerard equaled his 2018 finish, landing smooth 1620s that couldn't quite match what the field's best were throwing.
The 21-year-old's first run was a backside triple cork for 82.50, followed by an under-rotated attempt at a switch backside triple 1800. He then dialed back just a bit for the same trick but in 1620-form on Run 3, which temporarily moved him into third place.
"Today was crazy. I'll take this fifth," Gerard said. "That was a crazy final to watch, I knew it would all have come down to 18s and 19s, and I wanted to stick to what I've got to do, 16s, and see how they would score."
A slopestyle specialist, Gerard was bummed he didn't make the podium in that event earlier in the month, but was content with his overall Games performance, noting consistency, landing runs and spending time with teammates.
"I'm not really a massive big air fan, I like slopestyle a lot more so just to make the finals that was good," he said. "All in all I made two finals at the Olympics and did what I wanted."
Corning put down the first and only snowboard quadruple cork in Olympic history — a trick he was the first to land in any competition at a 2018 World Cup in Cardrona, New Zealand — for a 92.00, the top score among all of the final's first runs.
"Just to be able to land that – last time I was trying it I went over for three and fell pretty hard," Corning said, "so to put another one down at this awesome jump I was super stoked."
The 22-year-old, fourth in PyeongChang, tried a frontside 1800 flat spin on his second run but under-rotated. With one chance remaining to land a second trick, Corning corrected his trick on Run 3 but only went 1440, which ultimately wasn't enough.
"I had a great time … the big air jump is world-class, it's the best one we've ever hit that's in the city," he said. "I couldn't be happier of coming here and putting all my tricks down to the best that I could do them, and that's all I can ask for."
Su had a chance to throw a 1980 on his victory run but instead opted to bust out a floaty, stylish, slow-rotating 360. He stuck a backside 1980 last October during a training camp in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, becoming the first rider to land the trick since Yuki Kadono of Japan in 2017.
"I thought about trying a 1980 rotation, but I didn’t do it in the end," Su said. "When I was sure I had won gold, I was really excited and all I wanted was to enjoy that moment."
Similar to Tuesday's final, he won December's Big Air Steamboat World Cup event in Colorado with a pair of 1800s – a backside 1800 Indy and a frontside 1800 nose grab.
Su grew up in a ski area hub of northern China and was riding professionally by age 15. He was also a child actor, starring as Zi Shuan in 2014 Mandarin-language action film "The Taking of Tiger Mountain."
His gold is China's sixth of the Games, its most at any Winter Olympics, surpassing the five collected at the 2010 Vancouver Games.