Medals update: Norway's Birk Ruud makes history with first men’s freeski big air gold

Birk Ruud of Norway claimed the first-ever Olympic gold medal in men’s freestyle skiing big air on 9 February – and he was followed onto the podium by Team USA's Colby Stevenson (silver) and bronze-medal winner Henrik Harlaut of Sweden.

By Jonah Fontela
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

Norway's 21-year-old Birk Ruud pulled down the two best tricks (out of three) at the Shougang Industrial Park to scoop the inaugural men’s Olympic freeski gold in the big air discipline here at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.

The contest was still in the balance until the final runs. But neither Team USA's Alex Hall (going for broke with a huge 2160) nor his teammate Colby Stevenson could find what was needed to overtake the Norwegian former Youth Olympic champion (slopestyle).

"I've been so focused on myself and I enjoyed the moment -- this is what we live for," said Ruud after winning the day in a big way. "It's all about skiing and enjoying and I'm really happy to take this opportunity."

Two stunning runs for big air history

Ruud's final run was a virtual victory lap as he'd already sealed the gold with his two previous attempts -- and he decided to launch into his last jump clutching the Norwegian flag in his fist.

He'd opened the competition with a resounding message to the field of skiers -- landing a soaring switch 1980 as if he'd never even left the ground. He trimmed his second jump a bit, but executed it with perfection and style to earn a score of 92.00 (for a combined score of 187.75).

"To put on a show like this for the people, that was the dream," Ruud went on. "And I did it!"

The American Stevenson, who was lucky to escape with his life after a car wreck in 2016, was next-best among the 12 competing athletes (183.00) and took home the silver.

Sweden’s 30-year-old veteran Henrik Harlaut was good enough for bronze with a combined score of 181.00.

READ (EXCLUSIVE) | Colby Stevenson on his brush with death

"Big air is typically not an event I do well in. I've never podiumed in it," said Stevenson after winning his silver, thrilled to have reached his first Olympics after missing out on PyeongChang 2018 with a shoulder injury. "I knew I was throwing down some new tricks and I had a chance at doing well.

"This just feels like something out of a movie," he went on after riding his brand-new nose butter triple 1600, complete with a complex Japan grab, to an historic podium place. "I'm on a cloud right now.

Persistence pays off for Harlaut

Sweden's Harlaut, one of the big characters on the freeski slopestyle and big air world cup tour, was thrilled to have finally found the recipe for Olympic success.

"I feel fantastic. Just super, super good," enthused Harlaut after picking up his bronze. "It's my third Olympics and I've had the potential to get a medal, but it has never really clicked."

"I feel like the third time was the charm and it's so amazing to have done it in the first time for big air," he added.

The field of freeskiers will be back in action between 13 and 14 February at the Genting Snow Park as they chase the slopestyle gold medal on offer at Beijing 2022.

Men’s freestyle skiing big air results

  • 1. Birk Ruud (NOR) 187.75
  • 2. Colby Stevenson (USA) 183.00
  • 3. Henrik Harlaut (SWE) 181.00
USA Colby Stevenson after winning freeski big air silver in Beijing
Picture by Getty Images

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