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While he claims life has not changed much since the Olympics, Silverthorne teenager Red Gerard is visibly different than he was before he casually dropped into the slopestyle course in Pyeongchang, South Korea last February, threw down an electrifying run, and walked away with a gold medal—becoming the youngest U.S. snowboarder in history to do so. For one thing, after spending months in the gym, the 18-year-old has bulked up a little bit and looks (slightly) less like the kid he was a year ago. He’s polite and engaged, sipping a cup of black coffee in the lodge at the base of Breckenridge’s Peak 8 before competing in the 2018 Dew Tour, one of just a handful of competitions he’s entering this season.
Originally from Cleveland, Gerard and his large family (he has four brothers and two sisters) moved to Silverthorne when he was 7 years old. He first set foot on a snowboard at age 2, but stepped things up quickly after moving to Colorado, where he and his brothers built an enviable rails park in their backyard. Coming into this season with fresh notoriety after landing on the top step of the world’s biggest snowboarding stage, the teenager is not aiming to go big, per se, but to simply get back to snowboarding for the love of it. We caught up with Gerard to talk about what lies ahead for the emergent athlete.
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5280: At this time last year, you commented that the Olympics was “just another contest.” Do you still stand by that view after winning gold?
RG: I mean, it made a pretty big impact, for sure. I did go into it thinking that it is just another contest. Realistically, it was just another contest. I think that’s why I did so well there. It just had a lot more hype and a lot more publicity around it. I slowly learned what that all meant.
Did you seriously learn slowly?
It was more like zero to 100. But realistically, when you think about the snowboarding aspect of it, it was all the same. It was still the same format, the same contest as we always do.
What has changed in your life since the Olympics?
I’d say it opened up a lot of cool opportunities for me. That was the number one thing. Also, my Instagram followers went through the roof. I gained like 200K in a month or something. It was wild. Other than that, I hope I’m the same person. I hope I haven’t changed at all. I haven’t seen anything in my personal view that’s changed.
What types of opportunities have opened up?
Just friendships and meeting cool people. It’s just been cool to be an ambassador for things.
You get recognized in public a lot more than before the Olympics. How do you feel about that?
It’s definitely crazy. It doesn’t happen all over or as much as a few months ago, but around Colorado, it happens quite a bit. I think it’s awesome that people are noticing, and I just hope that some younger snowboarders are inspired in some way.
As far as inspiration, what do you think of the insane progression of snowboarding these days with guys going bigger and bigger at every contest?
Learning new tricks is pretty wild. It’s getting to the point where it’s kind of life-threatening. I haven’t had a ton of time to focus on all that, but I’ve been trying to link different lines in the slopestyle course and take creative routes.
You’re only doing a few competitions this winter. What are your goals in the coming months?
We’re doing a film project this year, going to British Columbia and then Japan and all over. I’ve always filmed in the past, but I was also dealing with contests at the same time, which I will be doing this year, just not as many. I’m very excited to give it my all and try my hardest. Besides Dew Tour, I’ll do X Games, U.S. Open, and probably the World Championships. After the craziness, I want to mellow down this season, just relax and do a lot of snowboarding.
Where are you keeping the gold medal?
It’s at my parents’ house in Silverthorne. I kind of give them all my trophies. They’re all up above the fireplace. My mom’s got like a photo of me and the American flag. She’s got a funny word for it. What’s it called when someone dies? Yeah, shrine. She’s literally got that above our fireplace.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.