American slopestyle snowboarding phenom Red Gerard, 17, had yet to execute a clean run in the Olympic finals at the Phoenix Snow Park in Bongpyeong, South Korea on Sunday morning. He wiped out on his second attempt.
This not-so-small disappointment, however, wasn’t about to dampen the Gerard family party — on a Sunday morning — at the bottom of the course. Nearly 20 of Gerard’s relatives and close friends were on hand. Gerard’s father Conrad, wearing an ominous Cleveland Browns beanie, stroked his frizzy gray beard and took a swig from a can of Kloud, a premium South Korean beer.
“I’m kind of nervous,” said Conrad, who moved with his wife and seven kids from that snowboarding hotbed of Cleveland to Breckenridge, Colorado when Red was seven. His son had one more run, one last shot at an Olympic medal. The beer helped keep him calm.
Conrad’s wife Jen, who led the charge to move the family to Colorado so they could spend more time outdoors — “call it my midlife crisis,” she says — tempered expectations. She just wanted Red to stay off his back, and finish his Olympics having crossed the line without another major mistake. “I know he will be disappointed if he doesn’t land a run,” said Jen. “Not that we’d have to call 911 or anything. We’re all having a great time out here.”
A member of the Gerard clan showed up with a box filled with cans of Fitz beer, handing them out like Halloween candy. Various relatives and friends held up cardboard cutouts of Red’s head and chanted his nicknames: “Reggie! Reggie! Red-i-o! Red-i-o!” The Gerards milled among the crushed cans in the snow. “They’re the most polite hoodlums you’ll ever meet,” says Ethel McGlynn, Conrad’s first cousin, of her extended family. “They’re darling.”
The Gerards were showing the world how to relish the Olympics. And this was all before Red nailed his last attempt, winning the first American gold medal of the PyeongChang Games, and becoming the youngest snowboarder to become an Olympic champion. The judges rewarded Gerard for taking a chance in his final run: he hit an extra rail rather than sailing over it. As he approached the bottom, Gerard knew he had a shot. He told himself not to blow it. He didn’t, capping off his golden effort with a flourish on his final trick: a backside triple cork 1440. Translation: “It’s just spins,” says Gerard. “A whole bunch of spins.” Four 360 degree revolutions, to be exact.
His score — 87.16 — put him in first place. So the party quickly turned up a notch. “That f–king kid!” screamed his agent, Ryan Runke. “That f–cking kid!” His mother Jen jumped up and down in the snow. “Wait, what place is he in?” she asked. She was just excited about that clean run. First, she was told. Mom leapt a little higher.
Canadian Max Parrot, another medal favorite, was the last rider up. Gerard had clinched a silver, but a gold was far from secure. Someone told Conrad everything was gravy from here. “Right on, man,” he responded. Parrot’s tricks were clean; all eyes honed on the big screen, which showed the score. An 86 for Parrot.
Gerard did it. Now there was bedlam, hugs, and tears. “My buddy just won $340 in Vegas,” screamed a cousin, Matt Gerard, whose friend bet on Red. “F–k yeah!”
Gerard’s path to Olympic history began when he was 2 or 3, when he first started snowboarding at Boston Mills, a ski resort in Ohio. Older brother Trevor, the first Gerard to take up the sport, remembers his pristine posture as he glided down a small slope. “He bombed that hill,” says Trevor, 30. Conrad acted as Red’s personal lift. He’d repeatedly pull Red back up to the top by his tiny arm.
After the family moved west when Red was 8, and it became clear that he had a serious future in the sport, Gerard didn’t waste much time dreaming about the Olympics. “He never paid much attention to them,” says Conrad. “He was always out doing s–t. He had an energy problem.” If Gerard was going to watch snowboarding, he would tune into the X-Games, or the Dew Tour. His approached these Olympics with a casual vibe, falling asleep while watching the sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine the night before the race.
“We’ve been really chill,” says Red Gerard’s Olympic Village roommate, fellow snowboarder Kyle Mack. “I had to play a bit of a dad figure to make sure he got out of bed in the morning.” When asked after his win what Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee, said to him after the competition, the name didn’t register. A reporter filled Gerard in on Bach’s position. “Oh my gosh,” Gerard said, only very slightly embarrassed. “Wow. Wow. Sorry guys. He’s was like, ‘what were you thinking during all those spins? I was like, I just wanted to land a run, that’s about it.'”
But he’s plenty stoked to be an Olympic champ, especially with his family on hand to share his moment. To this point, the Gerard sibling with the most clout might be older sister Tieghan, 24, who started a popular food blog Half Baked Harvest. Her parents help run it as a business. “That kid is about to outweigh me,” says Tieghan. “I couldn’t be happier. He deserves it.” After the event, Red lifted youngest sister Asher, 9, into his arms, and told her he loved her.
Older brother Trevor, who insists he never cries, bawled. Oldest sib Creighton, 32, thought back to the family’s former home, the Cleveland suburb of Rocky River, and the cops who’d bug him and his rascally brothers around town. “Rocky River police, look at us now!” says Creighton. “This is for officer Phil.” Draped in an American flag, Creighton welled up. The first family of Olympic fun — and joyous f-bombs — got its just reward. “Oh my God,” says Creighton. “I never thought he would f–king win it. I can’t believe this just happened. It’s written in stone, man.” Red Gerard. 17. First American champ of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.