American snowboarder Julia Marino took silver in the women’s snowboard slopestyle final at China’s Genting Snow Park H&S Stadium on Sunday. The second place finish netted the U.S. its first medal during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
“I’m feeling so many emotions. Right now it’s pure excitement and happiness. It was a great day,” Marino said after her competition. “The weather was perfect. The course was perfect. The girls were riding well. I couldn’t have asked for a better finals. It’s exactly what it should be like.”
The 24-year-old Marino fell on her first and third runs, but nailed her second to claim silver with 87.68 points. Her second go at the course, during which she expertly navigated the course’s rails and ramps, pushed her to the top of the leaderboard.
“It’s a run I’ve been wanting to put down for a long time,” she said. “This season, I didn’t necessarily get to put that one down and to do it here just means a whole lot different to anywhere else. I’m happy with that.”
Marino had a “nerve-wracking” wait at the bottom of the course as each of her competitors tried — and failed — to knock her off the top spot.
That is until New Zealand’s Zoi Sadowski Synnott finally took the course on her final run.
The Kiwi flew into the finish with her arms in the air — knowing her third run would place her on the podium even before her score was announced. Her stellar run pushed her to the top at 92.88 points.
She made history as the winner of New Zealand’s first Winter Games gold medal.
“I had a pretty crazy mindset going into my last run and I knew I had to put down the run that I put down at X Games to win gold, and I just took everything I had and tried to land it,” Sadowski Synnott said. “Going into that last jump, I knew I was going way too fast, and in the air, I was like, just do anything you can to just land.”
In third place was Australia’s Coady Tess.
In a show of sportsmanship, each of the three women cheered for one another. Once Sadowski Synnott wrapped her final run, and the results were announced, Tess and Marino ran out to hug each other.
Afterwards, each of the competitors only had good things to say about each other.
“We’re all really good friends, and it means a lot to me to watch them really ride their best,” Marino said. “[Sadowski Synnott] is the best rider right now and she’s making us all push our levels. She’s a great person and a great rider. I love to share the podium with her.”
Also competing on Sunday was Marino’s U.S. teammate Jamie Anderson. A third gold evaded the 31-year-old, who faltered in her final run to place ninth. Hailey Langland, also for the U.S., 21, wiped out in her final run and finished 11th.
Anderson previously won in women’s slopestyle during the 2014 and 2018 Olympics, becoming the first female snowboarder to win two Olympic gold medals. She is still pushing to become the first U.S. winter athlete to win three gold medals in a row as Anderson will compete in women’s snowboard big air later this month.
By Jaclyn Diaz | NPR