When he first strapped into a snowboard as a young kid, Marcus Kleveland quickly discovered that it wasn’t as easy as it looked in his video game.
“I got so mad that I threw the board away and went skiing for, like, half a year,” he recalled.
The kid once frustrated by snowboarding’s difficulty now makes it look effortless.
After switching from snowboarding to skiing, then back to snowboarding, Kleveland honed his craft and started posting video edits online.
Needless to say, those videos garnered a lot of attention from the snowboard world, as everyone wondered who this little grom from Norway was.
Terms like “snowboarding prodigy” and “future of the sport” were heaped onto this young kid, as everyone knew it was only a matter of time until he showed up on the contest circuit to start dropping hammers and winning hardware.
But that hype never got to Kleveland.
“I didn’t really think too much about it,” he said. “I was just having fun with my own things and doing what I loved.”
As it turns out, last season’s breakout proved that the prognostications about Kleveland were spot on.
Kleveland started off the winter with a pair of confidence-building wins at big air events, then went to X Games and landed a trick that had never been done in competition before: a backside quad cork 1800.
That history-making moment came at the age of 17 and helped earn him the first of two straight silver medals for X Games big air.
The quad cork – an off-axis spin that includes four flips – represents the next step of progression in big air snowboarding for many athletes. Several riders have done one in training, but Kleveland remains the only athlete to land a true quad cork in a competition. Canadian rival Max Parrot also landed a quad at last year’s X Games, but his quad underflip is considered a slightly different trick.
While Kleveland and his quad will be a focus of the big air Olympic competition, that’s not his only chance for a gold medal. He’s also a top contender in slopestyle, an event in which he has won back-to-back X Games titles.
In both events, some of Kleveland’s biggest challengers could be his own teammates, as Norway fields a stacked roster that also includes Stale Sandbech and Mons Roisland. The Canadian duo of Parrot and Mark McMorris will likely be a factor as well.
“I’m hyped that I’m heading to the Olympics this year,” Kleveland, who is now 18, said. “But there’s definitely a lot of tension around it, because it’s so big, and there’s so many riders there that are going to do well.”
Despite the increased expectations around the Olympics, at his core, Kleveland is still a humble kid having a blast doing the sport he loves. And lest you think he’s just about hucking himself off giant jumps and doing as many flips as humanly possible, a look at his Instagram account would tell you a different story:
Although those knuckle tricks – no matter how cool they are – won’t actually help Kleveland win any Olympic medals, that same fun-loving attitude he’s displayed throughout his entire journey just might.