Ruud flies flag for Norway and remembers late dad with Olympic gold
Birk Ruud led from the start to win Beijing Olympic gold in style in the men's freeski Big Air on Wednesday -- even carrying a Norwegian flag in his hand for his third run.
The day after Eileen Gu needed a stunning final jump to land gold for China in the women's event, Ruud dominated the men's field from the opening round.
The 21-year-old landed a stunning opening leap of five and a half rotations for a near-perfect score of 95.75 points.
"I have had this as a goal since I was 13 or 14 years old, even before this became an Olympic sport. I was really proud to put down those tricks and land those jumps," said Ruud.
He had built up such a commanding lead that he held his country's flag in his hand for his third jump, drapping it over his shoulders after landing.
"My coach brought out the flag before I jumped. I still had to stay focused to do my tricks," he laughed.
"I was really in the moment and took the opportunity. I wanted to put on a show for Norway.
"There is a lot of stuff happening in the world and it was nice to put on a show here."
Burk, who also won the Olympic test event in 2019 and was the top-ranked qualifier on Monday, finished with a winning tally of 187.75.
He wore a gold bracelet on his left wrist in tribute to his father, who died of cancer last April.
"I got this from my father before he passed away," said Ruud.
"I wanted to say 'thank you' to him, he's with me," he added, touching the bracelet.
"The thing is, he never cared about results, just about me being happy.
"I think if he saw me now being happy and achieving my goals, he would be really happy to see me happy."
Colby Stevenson of the USA took silver with 183 points, with bronze going to Henrik Harlaut of Sweden, who scored 181.
Stevenson suffered a horrific car crash nearly six years ago and described it as a "miracle" to stand on the podium.
"I was thinking of my family screaming at the television and I was happy for them," said the American, whose parents gave up work to help him recover from his injuries.
"I was trying to decide which trick to do as I was clicking into my skies," he said, after his stunning third jump secured silver.
"Surviving that car crash was in itself a miracle.
"That has helped me to be grateful for the little things in life, which helps you ski your best."