Sebastien Toutant grabs big air gold, wins Canada's 500th Olympic medal

Canadian snowboarder Sebastien Toutant soared to the top of the podium Saturday, landing two solid jumps to win gold in men's big air at the Pyeongchang Winter Games.

Max Parrot, Mark McMorris finish 9th and 10th respectively

Sebastien Toutant won gold in the men's big air competition on the strength of his first two runs. (Clive Mason/Getty Images)

By The Canadian Press

Canadian snowboarder Sebastien Toutant had redemption on his mind at the Olympics in Pyeongchang.

An 11th place finish in men's slopestyle last week followed by a ninth-place showing in the same discipline four years ago in Sochi had the 25-year-old wanting more.

Toutant was able to do that on Saturday, landing two solid jumps to win gold in the inaugural men's big air event at the 2018 Winter Games.

The medal was a historic one for Canada: the 500th in the country's Olympic history.

"I realize that I was able to get a second chance, you know," Toutant said. "I remember that I missed my landing in the final in Sochi and I said to myself, "I have to wait another four years.' But here, I turned the page and I was looking for the gold medal. I'm really happy."

The L'Assomption, Que., native scored 84.75 points on his first run and 89.50 on his second for a combined 174.25 points. Toutant didn't land his final run, but he didn't need to.

In big air, each rider gets three runs with points from their top two combining for a total score. Jumps are judged based on difficulty and execution — including amplitude and landing.

"So happy, it's insane," Toutant said. "Today I knew I had the tricks and I knew I could've done well, I'm just so happy it's gone my way. ... I put down my first two runs, I mean, that's the best scenario you can ask for."

Kyle Mack of the United States won silver while Britain's Billy Morgan took bronze.

Max Parrot of Bromont, Que., who won silver in slopestyle last week, finished ninth while Regina's Mark McMorris, the slopestyle bronze medallist, was 10th after struggling to land his first two jumps.

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Toutant finished 11th out of 11 riders in slopestyle last week.

Toutant tops McMorris, Parrot

Max Parrot of Bromont, Que., who won silver in slopestyle last week, finished ninth while Regina's Mark McMorris, the slopestyle bronze medallist, was 10th after struggling to land his first two jumps.

Parrot and McMorris were considered medal favourites for big air, which was making its Olympic debut. Instead it was Toutant, flying under the radar into Pyeongchang, who beat out his younger teammates.

Toutant hadn't won a World Cup in big air since 2011 in Stoneham, Que. He won silver at a World Cup at Copper Mountain in 2016 and was fourth at both X Games (Aspen and Norway) in 2017.

Toutant finished the last World Cup season ranked 10th in the discipline while dealing with back problems for months leading up to the Games.

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"A couple of months ago I couldn't even snowboard so it definitely feels great that I'm able to ride at my best and to put the tricks down," he said. "To be able to show up and to show the world what I can do is just awesome."

Toutant started the day with a cab-triple 1620 (4 1/2 rotations) followed by a backside triple cork 1620. Hoping to increase his score, Toutant attempted another cab-1620 in his third run but couldn't control it on his way down.

"I just went a little too big and just exploded on the landing," Toutant said. "But I'm still just happy the way it turned out.

"It was clutch definitely to land those two tricks straight up, that is the hard part of this format — landing two tricks out of three."

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Parrot was first in his Olympic qualifying heat earlier in the week with 92.50 points while McMorris placed third in his heat despite a massive 95.75-point run. No rider scored in the 90's in Saturday's final.

Parrot, 23, was in position to knock Toutant from the top of the podium with his final run, but he flubbed his attempt at a switch triple cork 1800 (five rotations with three flips), smacking his face hard on the snow on his landing.

"I've landed it in competition at the X Games multiple times so that's the frustration," said Parrot, who has nine X Games gold medals including four in big air. "It's not a new trick and it's not an easy one but I've landed it many times in contests and won with it.

"I landed pretty heavy on my face and for a couple of minutes after that I couldn't feel my nose nor my mouth. But it's all good, it doesn't hurt."

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McMorris was competing in Pyeongchang less than a year after suffering a series of gruesome, life-threatening injuries in a back-country crash in B.C. He lost his chance at a medal when he failed to cleanly land his first two jumps.

"It was so frustrating. This is what I was most looking forward to but it didn't go my way today," the 24-year-old said.

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"It was pretty special to be in this final. I wish I had put it down. I have the tricks to be at the top of the podium which is so frustrating. But it doesn't always work out — it's snowboarding."

Toutant's gold was Canada's 11th of these Games, surpassing the 10 first-place finishes from Sochi four years ago. Canadians won 14 gold medals in Vancouver in 2010.

But for Toutant, it represented something more.

"It's such a big day for snowboarding because we got to show at such a high scale what it's all about," he said. "I'm just happy to be that guy, that day, who won it."

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