It will go down as one of the most confounding and remarkable moments of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, if not all Olympics: Why did a teen freeskier in silver medal position pass on his third and final run with a chance to move into the lead?
That’s what people around the world were asking 16-year-old New Zealander Nico Porteous, who entered his third run on the 24-foot-high halfpipe with a chance to move up and pass the top scorer at the time, Alex Ferreira.
Instead, Porteous essentially passed on his final run, heading down the pipe while channeling his inner Elizabeth Swaney. The move confused commentators and likely his competitors alike, but Porteous insisted he knew what he was doing all along.
As it turns out, Porteous was just channeling his inner snow bro, relishing in a true millenial moment on the biggest stage after a rough morning; he told assembled media that he threw up three times Thursday morning (in South Korea time), apparently from nerves.
“I was giving it everything I’ve got, trained as hard as I can,” Porteous told the New Zealand Herald, the country’s national newspaper. “Doing the two best runs of my life back to back, that’s insane. … I was happy with the way I skied and that was all I can be proud of. But for the judges to reflect that, it’s insane.
“I’d done as much as I could, and if that wasn’t enough then it wasn’t enough.”
If Porteous had won gold, he would have become the youngest Winter Olympic gold medalist of all time.
It was enough … though just barely. Eventual winner David Wise knocked Porteous down to a bronze, with a handful of skiers still to come, but none could quite catch up to the Kiwi’s score.
Incredibly, Porteous was the second 16-year-old from New Zealand to earn a medal in two hours, following Zoi Sadowski-Synnott’s bronze in the women’s Big Air final. The country had just one Winter Olympic medal before Wednesday (slalom skier Annelise Coberger’s silver in 1992); now it has three.
New Zealanders everywhere have a pair of teenagers to thank for that, even if one had a truly millenial moment with the world’s eyes squarely on him.