If you haven’t read our interview with Olympic judge Connor Manning about Shaun White’s controversial win at the 2018 Winter Olympics, click here to check it out. You can also learn a bit more about Manning’s credentials and why we chose him to speak to the judging on the day. Simply put, the dude is the snowboarder’s judge. Growing up on the East Coast and competing across the U.S. until an ACL injury put him on the sidelines, Connor has stayed close to snowboarding by riding whenever he can and judging just about every major snowboard contest there has been in the past ten years. If you want to argue about snowboarding to someone, this is the guy. Right after Red’s win, we sat down with him in the lobby of his hotel connected to the Pheonix Park Ski Area in PyeongChang, South Korea, to discuss how and why it happened. Below is our conversation. – Mark Clavin
How was it judging the men’s slopestyle final at the 2018 Winter Olympics?
It was pretty insane. It's an amazing course, it looked phenomenal and I think the riders really had their job cut out for them, rather than us, with how they had to put a run together and how they were going to ride this course. There was so many different options, so many different lines and at the end of the day it came down to who was doing the best line with the best tricks. It was a tough competition to judge, it really was a nerve-wracker. But the course was amazing, the riding was amazing, and at the end of the day, I think it turned out to be a phenomenal competition for snowboarding.
Breakdown the judging, how is it different than the pipe?
So for slopestyle judging, we had nine scoring judges overall with a head judge. Basically the breakdown is the same as the US Open would be. We had two judges on the first two features. They judge each feature separately. And then there's two judges who judge features three and four separately, and features five and six separately. And then there's three judges who judge the overall run. The way it breaks down is with those six features add up to 60 percent while overall judges have a 40 percent say in the score. All the scores are calculated and then we come out with a final score.
Where were you?
I was one of the overall judges. Each feature is pretty much its own competition. Really what it does is provide better feedback for the viewers, the riders, and the coaches to say, "This is where you score on this feature, this is where you score on that feature,” and then 40% of the score is how you put that run together and more the artistry of the run.
So let’s talk Red’s line.
Red's first drop, he drops in switch. Half cab up to the table 50-50 backside 360 out, nothing to take off of that. And he had to take that line to get into this quarter pipe for the frontside air into the hip. Right into the down flat down, 50-50 tailslide 270 out, again so clean. Nothing to take away from it. This is unique here, the backside 360 melon tap and he gets the tap. Big thing on that feature.
Between the tap and a miller flip, what scores higher?
I think the tap. He came out of the bowl on the corner and instead of putting his hand down on it, he had his hand on his board. I mean with a miller flip you have your hand on your board but getting that nose to tap instead of going straight over the top of it is really comparable. But yeah, Red was showing a creative line through that and I think on the feature before where he goes over the hip and is able to hit the down-flat-down, a lot of riders were skipping the hip or skipping any other feature and just going straight gap on that down-flat-down. So Red hitting two features there really showed that he has the mastery of the course, he knows what's up, plus he has that frontside air. You can't compete with that.
It got called out almost as much as his gold on the internet by core snowboarding easily.
Yeah, so he brings it to that. Miller flip 540 off the one feature into a switch alley-oop backside 1260 stomped as clean as you can stomp it off the jump and here he comes into the quarterpipe hit off this first jump. Yeah, frontside double cork 1080. When you look at that, every other rider was kind of going straight off the top of that jump. It is way harder to hit the quarter pipe feature, make that landing with the amount of impact that happens on the landing of that the way you take off on a halfpipe hit and land on the jump, the trajectory is all your own. So it's not the jump matching the landing, it's how you take off matching the landing and Red took off almost as far back as you can on the quarter pipe, stomps it clean, keeps his speed and even has to do a speed pump to make it into that next jump. You see that right there, he just pumps in on his toeside edge, brings it right back into the backside triple cork 1440 mute and nothing to take away from that. Everything was so clean in that run and then, you know, it's time to get Gerarded.
Speak to Red's overall run, why the score came in.
I mean if you were to go back and watch all the replays of every single run that happens in that course, there's only one rider that takes that line and if you ask any other rider, the reason they didn't take that line is because it was so difficult. During practice we saw amazing riders like Tiarn Collins out of New Zealand go down with a dislocated shoulder trying to make it over that hip or on that hip feature, not even leaving him the quarterpipe. I think a couple of the Finnish guys, Roope Tonteri and Peetu Piiroinen, were the only ones to hit the quarterpipe hits into the landing on the other side and Roope landed a 540 and just barely missed making it to finals, but Red drops a frontside double cork 1080, the same as Max who got second place who did it straight over the flat jump.
So Max and Mark were very close. Quick sum up of the judging there.
On Max's run, he had super technical rails up top with a hardway cab 270 into the backside 360 backside 180 out. Just kept it super clean and ended up doing 12, 10, 14, on the jumps, landed them clean. Mark had a technically more difficult run but had some instabilities on his backside 270 and a few other tricks, on the half cab into the hip and stuff like that, so just on his instabilities there, he was docked a little bit and that's why Max ended up coming out in second place, Mark in third place.
Shoutout Stale real quick, anything you want to say?
Stale is probably one of my favorite riders to watch when it comes to video stuff and everything else, so stylish. Hurt his back at X Games and came out here swinging with an injury and was able to put down a frontside 1440 off of the twisted sister hits into a 12, and a 12. Just a great showing for Stale, he really came out and showed the mettle that he had a snowboarder and did it for snowboarding. Great rider overall.
So overall impression of the slopestyle final?
When it came down to it, Red Gerard really saw the course as a snowboarder, differently than all the other riders and took advantage of that. It was a course built for variety and execution and when it came down to it, on his third run, Red put it down with style, grace, and just really took variety to the course and showed the judges that he knows how to snowboard on every single type of feature that was offered to him with perfect execution. I don't think anyone could take it away from him. Enjoy the gold, Red.