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Mark McMorris becomes most decorated Winter X Games athlete ever

The part-time Whistlerite won slopestyle gold on Jan. 29 and now has 22 Winter X Games medals, breaking a tie with American superstar Jamie Anderson
Whistler part-timer and three-time Olympic bronze medallist Mark McMorris now has a record-setting 22 X Games medals to his credit. Photo submitted.

Throughout his career, people have called him "The Closer." Mark McMorris has now closed out the 2023 Winter X Games by adding a 22nd medal to his unrivalled resumé. In so doing, he became the most decorated Winter X Games athlete of all time. 

On Jan. 29, McMorris came up clutch yet again, throwing down an exceptional snowboard slopestyle run in his fourth and final attempt to seize gold. The Regina, Sask. native put himself in second place after a solid but flawed opening run in the first heat. For his second act, he cleaned up his already-technical rail section to move into first, where he remained for the bulk of the competition.

McMorris was the oldest man in the field at 29. He watched as opponent after opponent—including last year's bronze medallist Sven Thorgren and 2018 Olympic champ Red Gerard—failed to equal his performance. Yet Marcus Kleveland of Norway would throw down the gauntlet, briefly rising up into first with a world-class final run. 

Just like any other freestyle snowboarder, McMorris knows what Kleveland is capable of. The Norwegian sensation is one of the most talented athletes of his kind on Earth, with 11 X Games medals at just 23 years old. Suddenly, pressure fell onto the part-time Whistlerite's shoulders as he realized he would not have the luxury of a victory lap. 

He didn't need one anyway. Mere moments after Kleveland's challenge, McMorris proved that slopestyle is not necessarily a young man's game. The three-time Olympic bronze medallist closed the show with an even better run: he upgraded his third of four jumps to a switch backside 1620 (up from a 1260) and punctuated the whole contest with a backside 1620 triple cork featuring a stylish "Indy" grab. 

McMorris has broken a tie with American snowboard icon Jamie Anderson, who has 21 medals, to become the most successful contender in Winter X Games history. His 11 golds also move him ahead of skateboarding legend Tony Hawk in the record books. 

The overall record for X Games victories (summer and winter) belongs to BMX rider Garrett Reynolds of the United States, who has won gold 15 times.

Upon being told that he now stands alone in Winter X Games history, McMorris seemed surprised. 

"Oh, man. Thank you for that information," he said after the event. "It's something I never thought would ever come to me as a kid from Saskatchewan. Everything's just been a bonus since I became a pro snowboarder. 22. That's insane." 

Kleveland was in good spirits despite having to settle for silver, and fellow Norwegian Mons Roisland earned bronze after a clutch final run of his own. Roisland had fallen on each of his first three attempts. 

Whistler's Darcy Sharpe also competed in X Games slopestyle last weekend in Aspen, Colo. The 26-year-old from Comox, B.C. had a rough day on course, failing to complete any of his runs cleanly and placing 10th. Sharpe was among the first to hug McMorris after the latter's record-breaking triumph, but he will have to wait until next year to try for the fifth X Games medal of his career.

Back on Jan. 28, McMorris and Kleveland had both tested themselves in the big air contest at Aspen. Kleveland was dominant that day, racking up 96 of a possible 100 points to strike gold. McMorris worked for a 65, but he was relegated to fourth that night as silver medallist Otsuka Takeru of Japan (90 points) and bronze medallist Su Yiming of China (87 points) both had more in the tank.