Parrot outduels McMorris as all 4 Canadians reach slopestyle final

Tyler Nicholson, Sebastien Toutant complete the quartet

By Benjamin Blum, CBC Sports

Canadian snowboarder Max Parrot outduelled Mark McMorris in a high-flying exhibition, while a strong second run from Tyler Nicholson ensured that all four Canadian men qualified for the slopestyle final at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The trio joined Sebastien Toutant, who qualified in the first heat, in Saturday's 8 p.m. ET final.

Parrot led the way with an 87.36-point second run to beat McMorris' 86.83 to qualify in first place for the second Olympic Games in a row. The 23-year-old Bromont, Que., native, who finished fifth in Sochi, was flawless in his two runs, capping off both with backside triple cork melons.

"I'm super happy to [have] landed both of my runs today," Parrot told CBC Sports' Perdita Felicien. "I cleaned up a couple of my tricks, went bigger [in the second run.]"

"I made it to the final and that's all we really want."

McMorris, who won slopestyle bronze at the sport's Sochi debut, is competing less than a year after sustaining life-threatening injuries during a backcountry snowboarding excursion. The 24-year-old from Regina punctuated both of his runs with backside triples.

"It went about as good as it could have gone, thinking back to four years ago every run came down to my last chance so it felt good to put the first one down and get to have fun and step up my score going into the last run," McMorris said after his second run.

The pair have consistently battled in both slopestyle and big air on the international circuits and have been complimentary and critical of each other in the past, with McMorris seemingly unfazed by placing second.

"It's just qualifications, more of a seeding round," he said. "It's not too big of a worry."

"We feed off each other for sure. When he does good then I want to do good and I am sure it is vice-versa for him," McMorris told Reuters

For now, both are resolved to regroup in time for the final. "I will go see my physio this afternoon because my legs are like Jell-O," Parrot said. "We've rode so much this week."

The following snowboarders qualified from the second heat:

  • Max Parrot, Canada (87.36)
  • Mark McMorris, Canada (86.83)
  • Redmond Gerard, United States (82.55)
  • Staale Sandbech, Norway (82.13)
  • Tyler Nicholson, Canada (79.21)
  • Seppe Smits, Belgium (78.36)

Battling the elements

Earlier, Toutant's strong first run was enough to punch his ticket to the final. The 25-year-old from L'Assomption, Que., finished third in the first qualifying heat with 78.01 points, capping off his successful first run with a backside 1080 on the final jump amid blustery conditions at Phoenix Park.

"The wind is really circling around, sometimes it pushes you, sometimes it kind of blocks you from having speed for the jumps, so [I'm] really happy I put down my first run," Toutant said.

Marcus Kleveland — one of four Norwegians to reach the final — placed first with 83.71 on his first run, while highly touted American Chris Corning failed to reach the final.

"It is definitely good to get the whole crew in," Kleveland told reporters after his second run. "We have been having a good time at the village and had some really good days of practice. We are just having fun."

Toutant ran into trouble on his second run, falling after attempting a frontside 1080 double on the second jump of the course. Kleveland also crashed on his second run.

"It was going really well... and I got pushed on the second jump, went really big, got the trick but it was too deep so I flipped over," Toutant said. 

"[I'm] a little bummed I couldn't put down that second run, but so far my score is holding up."

The following snowboarders qualified from the first heat:

  • Marcus Kleveland, Norway (83.71)
  • Carlos Garcia Knight, New Zealand (80.10)
  • Sebastien Toutant, Canada (78.01)
  • Mons Roisland, Norway (76.50)
  • Torgier Bergrem, Norway (75.45)
  • Niklas Mattsson, Sweden (73.53)

The slopestyle course in Pyeongchang begins with three rail features followed by three jump features. Three of the nine judges evaluate the overall impression of a competitor's run, while the other six score the tricks executed.

There was a very worrying moment for Sweden's Mans Hedberg, who crashed on the final feature during the second heat.

Hedberg wobbled as he got to his feet and then could be seen beating the ground in frustration as he received medical attention. The 24-year-old was taken away for further examination in a neck brace.

With files from Reuters