The 2018 Winter Olympics only opened three days ago, and Team U.S.A. already has its first gold medal under its belt. Redmond "Red" Gerard, 17, earned the first place prize in slopestyle snowboarding on Saturday.
The teen had three chances to make a great run down the treacherous mountains of Pyeongchang. His first two attempts weren't quite up to standards, and Gerard and the other athletes were plagued by raging winds. The third was enough to put Gerard on the podium.
The young snowboarder managed an 87.16 score, catapulting him to the lead.
“I cannot believe it. I’m shaking right now, maybe from the cold, or from the excitement, I don’t know,” he said, just after finishing his third run on Sunday. “But I’m ecstatic.”
Slopestyle snowboarding was introduced to the Olympics in 2014, and so far has always been won by Americans. It involves athletes performing a variety of tricks and jumps on their way down a mixed-terrain course. It's often compared to skateboarding.
“After I landed the second jump I was like, ‘Come on, don’t blow it on the last one, let’s just make it through,’” Gerard told reporters.
“The wind was really bad, and the first two runs it was pretty tough, but we got a nice little break on the third and I’m just happy I got to land.”
“I can’t believe I got to land my run,” said Gerard. The 17-year-old was just hoping to finish, not wanting to get his hopes high in his first Olympics. Still, Gerard entered the Olympics at the top of the world cup ranking, so he was always a serious contender.
“Just to land a run would have been plenty for me and to get on the podium — but to get first is crazy," he said.
Gerard is now the youngest American man to win any medal at the Winter Olympics since 1928. He's also the youngest snowboarding medalist overall, which is no small feat in the sport that's looked down on by many as a concession for the younger generation.
Before qualifying for The Olympics, Gerard confessed that he's not the hyper-ambitious type. He hasn't been harboring Olympic dreams since before he could walk — he just stumbled into it, according to an interview with PEOPLE.
“No, honestly. I’m always thinking day-by-day, I’ve never been the guy that thinks into the future,” he said.
“And I think all of a sudden it’s just like I got my first sponsor, Burton, and then I don’t know, it’s just kind of into it at that point,” he continued. “It was like, ‘Alright, well I’m having fun doing it,’ and I’m like, ‘I get to do online school now and not go to actual school.’ And it’s like I’m sticking with it and I ain’t got nothing else going.”