At age 21, Red Gerard is one of the world's few people who have prepared to defend an Olympic gold medal. But if you think he's feeling the pressure, think again.
The Ohio native is set to compete in men's snowboarding slopestyle in the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, which begin next week. No matter what happens, he already made history four years ago: In 2018, Gerard became the youngest male U.S. Olympian to win gold in 90 years, when he took the top spot in men's snowboarding slopestyle at the Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
But even though Gerard tells CNBC Make It that he's focused on his goal of winning a second consecutive gold medal, he says he'll be the first to cheer on his rivals as they vie to beat him. There's extra satisfaction to winning, he says, when your competitors also put up high scores.
Seeing his rivals succeed "is just going to motivate me to land my run better," Gerard says. "It's going to feel a lot better to win when you look at the results, and from fifth place up, everyone landed a run that was dang good and amazing."
Gerard, an avid sports fan, says he sees a level of camaraderie in snowboarding that isn't always present in other sports. He cheers on his friends because "at the end of the day, it's down to me" to perform and score well.
"Almost everyone that I'm competing against, I consider those guys my closest friends," Gerard says. "Especially the ones on the U.S. team and the ones on the Canadian team. Those guys, I'm pretty darn close with."
And, he says, they cheer him on too. "When we're at the top [of the slope] we're always rooting for each other," he says. "I want my competitor to land a run, and I want it to be really good. I just want mine to do better."
On Saturday, Jan. 22, Gerard placed fourth in slopestyle at X-Games Aspen 2022, where he faced off against reigning world champion and Olympic favorite Marcus Kleveland, among other rivals. Both snowboarders are slated to compete in the Olympics slopestyle qualifiers on Saturday, Feb. 5 at 11:30 p.m. EST.
The event's final will take place on Sunday, Feb. 6 at 11:00 p.m. EST.
Disclosure: CNBC Make It parent company NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through 2032.