ZHANGJIAKOU, China : Max Parrot of Canada made a stunning comeback from cancer to win snowboarding slopestyle gold at the Beijing Olympics on Monday, carving out a smooth line and landing signature jumps with ease as Chinese teenager Su Yiming took silver.
Parrot, who completed the last of his chemotherapy treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma in 2019, held off home favourite Su on his second run with a frontside triple 16 that netted 90.96 points.
Parrot, who won silver four years ago in Pyeongchang, said the cancer treatments he endured made him feel like a "caged tiger" unable to participate in the sport he loved.
"I used to take life for granted and I don't anymore," Parrot told reporters. "Every time I strap my feet onto the snowboard I appreciate it so much more," he said.
Su's highest score of 88.70 also came on his second run with the 17-year-old taking silver on his Olympic debut.
After winning back-to-back bronzes at Sochi and Pyeongchang, Mark McMorris had said ahead of the final he wanted a different shade of medal this time.
But it was not to be for the Canadian veteran, who finished third on the podium again with a score of 88.53.
After landing his last jump, Su skidded down to the finish to hug both McMorris and Parrot.
"This feels insane and it's a dream coming true," Su told a packed news conference, adding that he had been training hard to link all his tricks together to showcase them in competition.
McMorris said he had hoped to do better but was proud of Su, saying it was "special" to see a boarder he has known for years develop into who he is today. McMorris also said he hoped to compete in the next Winter Games despite the slopestyle event, and snowboarding in general, being what the 28-year-old called a "young man's sport".
The stands at the Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou were packed by the end of the final with local supporters eager to see Su. The crowd holding flags emblazoned with the popular mascot of the Beijing Olympics erupted in a roar when Su's silver medal was announced.
The area designated for reporters at the finish line of the course was guarded by a row of volunteers and staff members to prevent excited fans from approaching the Chinese snowboarder.
Su said he was overwhelmed by the support shown by fans.
"Looking at everyone, the mascot, McMorris next to me ... I'm just beyond excited," he said.
Su was already dominating trending topics on China's Twitter-like platform Weibo and his silver medal cemented his celebrity status. The top five trending topics on Monday were about Su and even the term "1800" - referring to a particularly complex trick he landed in the final - was trending.
(Reporting by Mari Saito and Winni Zhou; Editing by Ken Ferris, Peter Rutherford, Himani Sarkar and Ed Osmond)