The athlete they call the “mountain GOAT” (short for greatest of all time) took the lead by nearly ten points at the Phoenix Snow Park after her first run, scoring 83.00. This smooth display was enough to win the gold medal, with Anderson aborting her second run.
Reigning world champion Laurie Blouin from Canada won the silver medal with a score of 76.33. After sliding out of her first run, the 21-year-old landed some impressive jumps in the second.
Enni Rukajarvi from Finland won bronze with 75.38. Finland’s flagbearer at the opening ceremony didn’t finish her first run. But the 27-year-old produced some beautiful rail riding in the top section of her second run, and an impressive backside 720 for her second jump.
Anderson, 27, didn’t land the second jump in her second run, and slid straight down to the finish into her boyfriend’s arms. She then wrapped the US flag round her shoulders.
“I’m so happy,” she said. “I’ve gone through so much this last year just preparing for the Games. Defending the gold is not an easy position to be in. I had a lot of pressure and I’m so proud of myself. I wanted to do a double nine on my first run and I went for it and realised I wasn’t going to clear the jumps. Thankfully somehow I connected with my lion power and found [my] feet.”
After greeting her boyfriend, Anderson had special praise for everyone else who has helped her towards a gold medal. “I could have cried seeing my dad and mum and all my family and friends so happy,” she said.
“You know, that’s what it’s all about. I don’t think we can do anything without each other’s support. It’s not just me, it’s all these people around me who keep me cheerful and help me to be my best self.”
The experienced snowboarder, who won gold at Sochi 2014, has had to develop difficult new jumps since her gold medal at Sochi 2014 as women’s snowboarding has developed quickly.
“During the last couple of years I’ve been trying to learn [new] tricks and having a handful of injuries,” she said. “[I’d been] feeling overwhelmed – there’s so much to process. This season alone we had all our Olympic qualifiers, so it was really energy-draining.
“By the time I got [to PyeongChang] I thought: ‘Good thoughts only, no matter what. I’m here, I’m going to live in every moment and embrace it: the nerves, the fear, all of it that comes.’”
The snowboard slopestyle was delayed due to high winds, and conditions remained challenging during the event. All athletes competed in the final, after qualifying was cancelled due to windy conditions.