How Slopestyle Gold Medalist Red Gerard Keeps His Cool—and Makes It All Look Easy

Team USA Olympic snowboarder Red Gerard kicks up a cloud of snow at the end of his snowboarding run
Team USA snowboarder Red Gerard completes his Olympic slopestyle qualifier run at Colorado's Copper Mountain.Courtesy Image

Snowboarder Red Gerard returned to the United States from the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang at the age of 17 with a gold in slopestyle around his neck. The youngest person ever to win a snowboarding gold for Team USA, he garnered attention for his youth, talent, and laid-back nonchalance. A gifted athlete with a friendly, effortless demeanor, he made being an elite athlete look easy. There was a little time for the dreamscape to continue—riding a high from the hardware, A-list sponsorships, and ensuing late-night talk show circuits—before returning home to three of his brothers in Silverthorne, CO, who promptly reminded him to do the dishes and take out the trash.

We spoke with Gerard about what it feels like up at the gate before a race, the importance of family (he’s one of eight kids) in staying grounded, and how the 2022 Olympics have a different meaning this time around.

Red Gerard reacts to his results in the slopestyle Olympic qualifier at Copper Mountain
Red Gerard reacts to his results during the Olympic qualifier at Copper Mountain. Courtesy Image

Men’s Journal: How many snowboarders will be representing Team USA this year and who are your biggest competitors?

Red Gerard: Team USA will be four men and four women. As far as our biggest competitors, Canada and Norway always have pretty good teams. If I had to focus on someone specifically, I’d say Marcus Kleveland from Norway. He’s really good at what he does, and somebody I grew up watching and looking up to. He was the guy all my teammates watched too, even before we made the U.S. National Team. He was just this crazy kid who could do double courts—and we’re all, “Oh my God. I want to be this kid.” And now I’m up against him.

What’s also cool is that everyone in our sport is so nice. You expect people you grew up watching to be these big professional athletes, then you meet them and they’re just these nice, humble men and women.

What does family mean to you?

My family is everything. I feel so lucky to have such a big one and I love them all so much. There have been many times where they’ve helped me along when I’m stressed out, or just kept me grounded during little victories along the way. People ask me who my best friends are. They’re family.

You exude buoyancy and levity. How do you stay grounded as an internationally known athlete going into your second Games at the age of 21?

I go golfing with my cousin every day after he’s done working. I also live with my brothers. It’s the simple stuff: doing dishes, taking out the trash. I’m no better than them in any way, and that’s what helps keep me grounded. No matter how much I win, lose, succeed, or attract media attention, I’m still their little brother. So they’re always kind of beating up on me and keeping me in line. They never let me forget that I’m the little brother!

Also being around a large family, I roll easily with a lot of people. It makes being on the road easier for me than it is for athletes who’ve never had that constant movement and energy. There are a lot of people on the team from smaller families than my own, and I think they do struggle with being around a lot of people for that long—especially being on the road for months on end. A lot of times, you don’t really have a ton of personal space while traveling because we’re always rooming with someone. That doesn’t bother me at all because that’s just how I grew up—y’know, in a house where there were 10 of us.

Has Covid impacted your training? Is it a psychological hurdle at all for you?

No. Obviously, there’s always that scare of getting sick, especially so far away from home. I got it in August 2020 and was lucky it didn’t do much to me. That boosted my confidence about traveling. The rigorous testing and staying in a bubble is a little annoying but necessary, and by now I’ve gotten used to that.

How do you approach training physically and mentally for your runs?

At this point, I’ve been doing it for so long it just feels really natural. At the training camps, I’ll have a couple of tricks I want to learn and I’ll just slowly chip away at trying to reach my goal. After, it’s all about trying to treat my body for the next day because it does get pretty sore, especially if I’m training seven days a week on snow. After snowboarding, I stretch and get in the ice bath for maintenance. In the spring when days are longer, we have full days. It’s so fun. We’re linking up, snowboarding, then getting off the hill and going skateboarding, then ending it with golf. By then I’m so torn up.

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How much coaching do you need if you’ve been on the snow since you were two?

My coaches are out there every day with me. I’ve been with Dave Reynolds since joining the U.S. team when I was 13. I have a really good relationship with him and consider him to be one of my closest friends.

All my brothers were into snowboarding when I was growing up and it was always more about getting in a good groove and riding with friends. That’s when you tend to learn tricks and snowboard better—when you’re just out having fun, so that’s how it is on the mountain. Obviously, it’s on a different scale now that we’re doing bigger tricks and all that. I think all of that makes me very coachable.

Are you planning any new tricks you haven’t done before?

For sure. Every time we go to those training camps, we always have tricks we want to do. Right now, it seems the trick in snowboarding is 1620s and figuring those out. That’s been the goal—to get those dialed. Luckily enough, I feel I’ve done a couple of them and now it’s just trying to get to that comfort level where I feel like I can do it in bad weather. I can’t be scared of the trick.

Do you also train on a trampoline or is it all open-air on the mountain now?

I did a lot of that when I was younger. Then as I got older I noticed that the trampoline started to hurt my body more, so I stopped. Now, it’s just all up on the mountain. You just work yourself up to it. There’s obviously a level of commitment when it comes to competing at this level. For me, a lot of it is mental. Picturing it in my brain and doing it in my head—a million times over and over, until it’s time to actually execute it. Then at that point, you just kind of go out and do it.

Have you ever had a major injury?

I’m lucky. Knock on wood, I’ve never broken a bone or anything. Last year, I did have a ligament issue and knee surgery on my meniscus. It was a six-month process, but it’s good now.

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What have you learned about yourself since your last triumphant Olympics?

At the 2018 Winter Olympics, I was pretty young and I think it forced me to mature quicker than your average kid—which I was very grateful for. I got to meet a lot of cool people, and I was just put in this realm where I needed to mature very quickly.

Before the Olympics, I didn’t really care much about winning because it was just such a rush going to all these contests and competing with all of these people. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned that I really do enjoy being on the podium. If I’m going to compete, I want to give it my all. Another thing I’ve learned over the years is just more about myself and how my body works. Before the last Olympics, it was all just fun and games. And it still absolutely is, but there’s also a new sense of professionalism for me now.

A shift in your mindset?

Very much so—just trying to achieve something special. I’m a natural athlete, and I really like being fluid, in the zone, and being present. It’s what makes me tick and I never want to lose that.

Do you see yourself going for four Olympics?

I’m a pretty step-by-step guy. I try never to get that far ahead of myself. After these Olympics, maybe I’ll take a little break. I’m a big fan of filming snowboarding and making movies, so maybe I’ll take a year to do that. But I absolutely plan on coming back to competing because I really enjoy it. I think a lot of snowboarders don’t enjoy it as much. But for me, I like to put together these runs. It’s like nothing else.

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Does competing in the Olympics feel different? Do you feel a patriotic pull?

The actual snowboarding part of the Olympics is no different than any other contest I do, but there’s a whole other aspect here obviously. A lot more media attention. A lot more eyes on you. And, of course, I’m representing my country and I have my family there watching. It’s bigger in many ways, but when I’m standing at the top I just try to think, “I’ve been doing this since I was two years old.” A lot of people ask me how I got to this level. Step by step. I’ve just been doing it for so long.

Some speed round questions for you: Favorite food?

I’m all about the sushi.

Favorite film?

The last Bond movie.

Do you have a favorite band?

I’ve always been a Rolling Stones guy.

Favorite place to snowboard with friends?

Powder resorts are the best. Woodward Park City just opened and it’s really cool.

Greatest snowboarding influence or mentor?

My brothers. Danny Davis has always been up there too—the way he treats people with kindness and carries himself with such integrity. I think he’s just a great representation of how snowboarders should be.

 

 

 

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