Norway’s Birk Ruud claimed the first men’s freeski Big Air Olympic gold medal with a dominant display as his main rival, American Alex Hall, faltered at the Beijing Games on Wednesday.

Having landed a switch left triple 1980 mute — five and a half rotations — in the first run, the 21-year-old scored a total of 187.75 and was assured of the title before the third and final jump, which he made holding the Norwegian flag.

Colby Stevenson (183.00) was second for the United States, who were still waiting for their first gold of the Games on the fifth day of competition.

They have not waited that long for their first title since they clinched a maiden gold at the Winter Olympics after seven days at the 1988 Games in Calgary.

Sweden’s Henrik Harlaut (181.00) took the bronze medal with his last jump, his “boom boom boom” celebration breaking the near silence at the Shougang steel mill in sharp contrast to the fanfare that greeted China’s Eileen Gu when she won the women’s title on Tuesday.

After Austrian Matej Svancer, the 17-year-old rising star of freeski, failed to make it to the final, Wednesday’s event was widely predicted to be a duel between Ruud and Hall.

Hall, who won the Winter X Games last month with a double cork 2160 — a whopping six full rotations — failed to grab properly on his switch left double 1800 in the first run.

Ruud, a cliff diving enthusiast and 2016 Youth Games gold medallist, managed a switch left triple 1980 mute in the first run to get 95.75.

“Thank you Norway, everybody. This has been a goal since I was at the NTG U (school) when I was 13, and now we’re here,” he said.


With the two best runs taken into account for the final standings, Hall was already under pressure.

The American scored 92.50 with a left double 1980 Buick — his signature grab — in the second run but gold looked in the bank for Ruud with a 92.00 for his left double bio 1800 mute.

“Dad, you are with me,” said Ruud after landing. The Norwegian’s father died of cancer last year. “Since then I’ve realised that there’s more to life. I’m grateful,” he added.

Ruud’s solid second jump left Hall needing at least 95.25 on his third run but the American crashed at landing his signature switch left double 2160 and he finished eighth on 160.75.

“So I was trying to decide between two tricks, that I should play at all safer, or really go for it,” said Hall.

“I ended up going for my hardest trick which I’m stoked I just went for it but I didn’t quite have enough air time so I couldn’t quite land it, but I just did try and give it all I got and sometimes things don’t go your way, so it’s all good.”

Norwegian Christian Nummedal, who had the best score of the second run, crashed out of medal contention with his last attempt, as did Evan McEachran of Canada.

Swede Harlaut was delighted with the bronze.

“I feel fantastic,” he said. “Third time at the Olympics, third place. Fantastic.”

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