The grand plan when Red Gerard and his brothers set down rails and attached a tow rope to a dirt bike to fashion a snowboard park in their backyard wasn't all that grand. "Just having fun snowboarding," Red explained. Look where all that fun landed him. The 17-year-old snowboarder from just outside of Breckenridge, Colo., won the Olympic gold medal in slopestyle Sunday, courtesy of a nimble, creative ride through a wind-swept course that left almost everyone else scrambling to keep their footing. Red captured America's first gold medal of the Pyeongchang Games—first medal of any color, in fact—and will soon go on a victory tour he never saw coming, even if the rowdy, red-white-and-blue mosh pit full of friends and family envisioned it all along. "I said it from Day 1," said Brendan Gerard, one of Red's five older siblings. "The kid was 2 years old when we started him snowboarding. By 6, it was inevitable he was going to be something huge."
That couldn't have suited Red much better. Listed at 5-foot-5 and 116 pounds, he does not overpower courses and slam down landings the way that, say, silver and bronze medalists Max Parrot and Mark McMorris of Canada often do. Instead, Red relies on the quick reflexes he learned in the tight quarters of his backyard. Red didn't pick the straightest, easiest path through the rails and was the only contender to fly over a goal post feature in the top section. Red closed with a backside triple-cork 1440, and his only thought in the air was: "Just don't blow it." He didn't, and the scene at the bottom was wacky in a way that only the Olympics can dream up. After his first-place score of 87.16 flashed, there was the 17-year-old shredder kibitzing with IOC President Thomas Bach. "He was like, 'What were you thinking during all those spins?' And I was like, 'I just want to land a run, that's about it,'" Red said.