New Hampshire-born Utahn freeskier Colby Stevenson captured big air silver Wednesday at the 2022 Winter Games amidst a magnificent showing from Birk Ruud of Norway, winner of the event's first Olympic gold.
Stevenson, who historically has had more success in slopestyle, washed out on the landing of his opening-run nosebutter triple cork 1620 attempt. But the 24-year-old fought back to stomp the same trick on Run 2 for a 91.75, then landed a huge switch double 1800 with massive air for a 91.25, totaling 183.00.
"It is all so unexpected. It is a total miracle for me to get on the podium today," Stevenson said. "I was just thinking of my friends and family screaming at the TV, so I am happy I was able to perform for them.
"As I was clicking into my skis [for my final run], I was deciding whether I was going to go switch 19 or with the switch 18. It was a smart decision to go for the 18 and grab it as long as I could. I had some pressure, but I was more focused on doing the trick I wanted to."
Top qualifier Ruud didn't hold back on Run 1 and put down a smooth switch triple cork 1980 for 95.75. He followed up with a double bio 1800 with mute grab on his second run for a 92.00, and his combined score of 187.75 ultimately held up for the title.
“I had this dream from when I was 13 or 14 years old. I just had to focus on my skiing and put down those tricks," Ruud said, who was wearing an arm bracelet for his late father. "He passed away from cancer in April. I just wanted to say thank you to him. He is with me (touches his heart) and my family as well."
Sweden's Henrik Harlaut took bronze in his third Games appearance, while Stevenson's teammates Alex Hall – the event's reigning X Games champion – and Mac Forehand placed a respective eighth and 11th. Hall landed a double cork 1980 with this signature Buick grab on Run 2 but couldn't stick a 2160 attempt on Run 3.
Stevenson was involved in a May 2016 truck crash at age 18 that left him with a shattered skull and broken ribs, eye socket, jaw and neck. But through hope and determination, he returned to his skis just five months later, and less than a half-month after that won a World Cup slopestyle contest in Italy.
“I feel like everything happens for a reason," he said. "I think it is a good way to look at life and to think positively and come out of dark times like that. That in itself is a miracle and surviving the car crash is a miracle.
"Each day I try to focus on the little things in life. It helps me stay in the moment and be grateful for the little things … It helps you ski your best when all of these outside things are not clouding your thoughts. It’s just important to focus on the things you do have. And that helps you ski your best.”
A rotator cuff injury ultimately spoiled his bid to make the 2018 PyeongChang Games. He won slopestyle gold at the 2020 X Games and earned slopestyle silver at the 2021 World Championships.
SEE MORE: Men's Freeski Big Air Final