Judging mystery costs Parrot a snowslope medal

Maxence Parrot (pictured) admits nobody knows what's going on in slopestyle, a new event at these...

Maxence Parrot (pictured) admits nobody knows what's going on in slopestyle, a new event at these Games. (Didier Debusschere/QMI AGENCY)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:28 PM ET

KRASNAYA POLYANA, RUSSIA - As the sun went down on the first and only slopestyle snowboarding event in Winter Olympic history, this much became apparent: Nobody knows how in hell this sport works.

The fans don't know. The competitors don't know.

They boarders say the judges don't know. And at the same time they say, they don't even know who the judges are.

The journalists, a lot of us watching this wondrous event on a perfectly sunny day at Rosa Khutor Park for the first time, wouldn't know a 1620 from a 1260, or any other number for that matter.

"We really don't know what's going on," said Maxence Parrot, the teenager from Cowansville, Que., who could have won gold, should have won something, and came away with nothing Saturday afternoon here.

Mark McMorris will get all the headlines and TV time, whether he deserves them or not.

But it was Parrot who should feeling cheated. As the last rider in the field -- they call themselves riders -- he went for it. I mean, really went for it. He did a 1620 manoevre, that's a high-risk move he hadn't planned on bringing to the Olympics, thought he nailed it, and when he reached the finish line, he was convinced he was on the podium.

He thought, maybe gold. Possibly silver. Never figured bronze. "I was disappointed for sure to get fourth," said the kid.

We didn't have the heart to tell him he finished fifth.

All of this is why the celebration of McMorris winning Canada's first medal of the Games, is nice and charming and considering his injury and his comeback, it's a terrific story. But it needs to be temperered slightly as this sport wrestles with itself to find some kind of peace between its competitors and those determining the placing.

McMorris was predicted by just about everybody to win gold, even after breaking a rib. But even he knew his medal -- much as it thrilled him -- was earned somewhat dubiously. Some thought Canadians could win gold and silver. With 25% of the field in the final and 25% of the field guaranteed medals, the first day looked good for Canada.

From the outside, not the inside.

When Parrot finished his run, McMorris himself figured his medal was gone. He began to walk away from the area, disappointed. He knew the last time Parrot successfully landed a 1620, he won the X-Games gold medal. But landing it at Rosa Khutor made Parrot an also ran, a forgotten man.

As things turned out, both Canadians, maybe the two best in the world most weeks, read the judges wrong.

"We didn't know what they were rewarding," said Parrot. "I wasn't sure what to do."

This could come down to a Canadian team ill-prepared for appearing before a new set of judges or athletes simply getting sandbagged: That's the sad thing here. These are Olympic gold medals being given out -- lifetime achievement awards in many cases -- and hardly anyone who knows this sport believed the gold-medal winner, American Sage Kotsenburg, should have been the victor.

Parrot ended up with a fifth-best score of 87.25. McMorris won bronze with 88.75. Both runs were technically more challenging than anything Kotseburg attempted.

"He's a showman," said Sebastien Toutant, the Canadian medal hopeful who had a dismal final round. "I guess the judges like showmen.

"My podium would have different than their podium. I think Mark and Max should have been on the podium with medals, probably with Staale (Sandbech of Sweden) and I'm not saying that because I'm Canadian."

No two athletes I asked about a top three had the same three listed.

Watching slopestyle for the first time, a graduate event from the X-Games, you can understand why the Olympics adores this sport: It combines athleticism and theatre in a figure skating, diving, gymnastics kind of way.

And with it comes the age-old judging argument: You name the sport. It is the Toller Cranston vs Elvis Stojko debate for snowboarding. It is artistic impression vs. athletic power.

It was Kotsenberg doing the fancy moves; the Canadians getting left behind for being able to jump higher, spin more often.

"They weren't our usual judges. We didn't have a clue what they were looking for," said Toutant. "I'm happy for Mark, happy for Canada. We got a medal.

"That's better than nothing."

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/simmonssteve

Click to enlarge and open in new window

 


Photos