When Max Parrot began his 12 rounds of chemotherapy to treat Hodgkin lymphoma, he thought his career as a snowboarder was done. He put his snowboard in a closet and stopped competing in the sport he loves.
Parrot won slopestyle gold at the Beijing Olympics on Monday, three years to the day that he was lying in a hospital bed in Granby, Que., undergoing treatment that would cure him of his cancer.
“I had no more muscles, no more energy, no more cardio. I remember I was drawn by my treatments,” said Parrot, with a Canadian flag draped over his shoulders. “I almost wanted to quit sometimes because it was getting so hard just to get to the next morning.
“To be standing here three years later and winning gold, that is completely crazy.”
Parrot, from Bromont, Que., scored a 90.96 in his second run to win the Olympic title. China’s Su Yiming, who had the best score in qualifying, took silver with 88.70. Regina’s Mark McMorris earned a bronze medal at his third consecutive Olympics with an 88.53.
“I’m incredibly proud of myself on the run I did today, it was the hardest one I’ve ever done in my entire career,” said Parrot. “I was able to stay focused and to lay down every feature perfectly, which got me to 90 and got me the gold medal that I was missing in my career.”
It’s the second straight Olympics that Parrot and McMorris have shared the podium in the event. Parrot upgraded his silver from the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, winning Canada’s first gold medal in Beijing.
McMorris was in a devastating backwoods skiing accident near Whistler, B.C., months before the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. McMorris said he was happy to see Parrot, his teammate from three consecutive Games, overcome a similarly life-threatening condition and reach the podium.
“He’s incredible. He can really nail some hard stuff. He’s definitely a great snowboarder,” said McMorris. “I’m super proud to share the podium with him and he’s been through a lot just like myself. I think it’s well deserved.”
Parrot had struggled through practice sessions and training at Zhangjiakou Genting Snow Park, placing ninth in qualifying on Sunday. In a morning strategy session he decided to be bold in the medal round and came flying out of the gate in his first run to earn a 79.86, good for third.
He said that in his golden second run he just tightened up his previous run to improve on his technical scores.
“I was definitely not going to do the same run as qualies,” said Parrot. “I really just wanted to go for a safe run to make the finals, which worked out. and I was going go big or go home today.”
Su had the best run in qualifying, giving him the strategic advantage of going last in all three runs of the medal round. He also had the support of about 200 Chinese spectators, who cheered wildly and waved hand-held flags for all three of his routines.
The local hero’s 88.70 in the day’s second run put him in the silver position behind Parrot and put all the pressure on McMorris for the final run.
McMorris had his best run of the day in his third and final run, flipping his board away — like former Toronto Blue jays star Jose Bautista famously did to his bat — to celebrate what he thought would clinch him a gold or silver medal. Instead, he was 0.17 points behind Su.
“Definitely was anticipating a bit higher of a score,” McMorris said, adding that he didn’t envy judges. “But sometimes when you finish a run, you don’t really recall some of the like maybe little bobbles you had or whatnot.”
Sebastien Toutant of L’Assomption, Que., was ninth with 54.00. He said he tried out a brand new trick in his runs and couldn’t quite stick the landing.
“We always go hard and we always try new stuff that is not easy,” said Toutant. “I have no regrets about it. No regrets.”
He added with a laugh: “If I had a second shot at it I would probably do the same but hopefully land it.”
Parrot, McMorris, Toutant and Darcy Sharpe of Comox Valley, B.C., will all compete in big air starting Feb. 14. Toutant is the defending Olympic champion in that event.
Another historic medal for #TeamCanada 🙌— Team Canada (@TeamCanada) February 7, 2022
The quartet of @MackenskiBC, @MattSoukup, @Ale_Loutitt and @abi_strate won 🥉 in the Olympic debut of the mixed team ski jumping event 🥳
Check out the 🔗 for more ➡️ https://t.co/jmXWMBunYe pic.twitter.com/oDlSoENVLC
feature image – Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS