Sebastien Toutant gets a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression
Canadian snowboarder falters in slopestyle, but becomes first men's Olympic champion in big air
By Paul McGaughey, CBC Sports
For some, the Winter Olympics Games in South Korea have come and gone in the blink of an eye, but not for Sebastien Toutant.
In fact, the Canadian snowboarder feels like he has been in Pyeongchang forever.
He arrived before the opening ceremony to prepare for the slopestyle event — which began on Day 1 — and after finishing 11th in that event, he had to wait two weeks for a chance to redeem himself in Saturday's big air final.
"It feels like I've been here for ages, but I'm just happy I got my head straight and I started focusing on big air and everything went pretty good," says the newly crowned gold medallist over the phone from South Korea.
"It was a hard thing that happened in slopestyle — falling on my last trick was hard to swallow — but as soon as we started practicing for big air, I started focusing on that one and I was like... it probably happened for a reason and not every sport has a second chance to get a medal."
Five hours after winning the Olympic debut of men's big air, the L'Assomption, Que., native finally called a timeout to eat a slice of pizza before stepping back into what he called the "media circus."
"It's still so fresh, I'm just living it up," says the 25-year-old.
"It's still hard to believe I just won my first gold medal … but that hard work paid off at the end and it turned out to be my day and I'm happy to close out the Games that way."
Toutant couldn't have asked for a better way to conclude his stay in Pyeongchang, but he's more than ready to break free of the routine that encompassed his time there.
"It's not boring, there's just not much else to do in the village," he says of the time spent outside training and competing.
"If every day you go practice for your contest, that fills your whole day, so you're tired and you go to bed and you're good. But once you have a day off, I just feel like there's not much to do."
A true gamer
Away from snowboarding, Toutant enjoys playing poker, but perhaps true to form, he denies that his style of play is similar to his approach on the slopes.
"I try to just fool the people a little bit," he says. "Sometimes I like to play with a really small hand and I just bet on it and then see where it goes. But I play for fun. I'm a gamer and I love to play all sorts of games."
When it comes down to it, Toutant really just loves competing and pushing his abilities to the limit.
"I play pretty much any sport and all those little games like ping pong or cards. I just like the challenge of who's going to win," he explains.
"It's not about the money [or betting], it's more just about your skills against my skills — who's going to take it?"
Leading up to the Olympics, Toutant was forced off his board for a couple months as he dealt with a back injury he says has stabilized but is something he'll have to live with and manage.
Yet as difficult as it was for him to be sidelined, the time away only reinforced Toutant's love for a sport he fell in love with at age nine.
"Injuries are part of it and I think it makes you a stronger rider because you go through so much," he says. "You want to get back on your feet so bad that once you're back you start enjoying the moment."