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Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand competes during the women's snowboard big air final of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics on Tuesday. She won a silver medal, one podium spot behind gold medalist Anna Gasser of Austria.Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press

On Monday, there was a stampede at the convention centre where the media are housed here.

Dozens of volunteers – all of whom are school-aged, and most of whom are women – were running around in a tizzy. A large knot of them clustered near the doors of an interview room. Phones started flashing and people began yelling.

Oh no, you thought. Not Bing Dwen Dwen again. How much attention does that space hog need?

But no, it was a human, an actual honest-to-God Olympian, causing the fuss – Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu.

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Maybe he is as big a star in this country as he is in his own. Or maybe the staff were so starved for excitement, they decided to manufacture some of their own.

As it winds down and the broader themes emerge, we now know this was another starless Olympics. Who was a big deal here? Not Hanyu. He lost. Not Mikaela Shiffrin, because ditto.

Maybe Eileen Gu? Or Chloe Kim? How about Canada’s Max Parrot?

What do those people have in common? They do sports that 20 years ago might not have been recognized as such. They are the leading edge of the X Gamesification of the Winter Olympics. On Tuesday, part of that cycle was being completed.

The men’s snowboarding portion signalled the end of the big air section. Parrot bolstered his bona fides as the national face of the past two weeks with another medal – a bronze.

Facing down cancer, as Parrot recently did, will put you in the right headspace for jumping off snow cliffs.

“I was mostly just thinking about making it to tomorrow, for six months,” Parrot said afterward. Presumably, this was simple by comparison.

His compatriot Mark McMorris didn’t have a great day, finishing off the podium. He said all he was thinking about now was getting home and “riding some powder.”

“I’m all over this hard stuff,” McMorris said, pointing derisively at the ramp. Which is about as snowboarder a sentiment as can be uttered.

Parrot is a breakout star of this Games and big air is another. Not just the event, but the venue that plays host to it.

If the Olympics has a bright future (an open question), this is part of it. You don’t build completely new and soon-to-be completely useless stuff out in the middle of nowhere. You go to places that are central and underutilized and build something architecturally daring.

When people think back on Beijing 2022 – which they’re not going to do, but let’s pretend – what will they see in their mind’s eye? The Beijing logo painted across a cooling tower. For people who’s only sustained exposure to this city is watching these Olympics, that tower is now to Beijing what the Eiffel is to Paris.

Then there is the sport itself. It’s ridiculous. It’s people jumping off a cliff and trying not to land on their heads. But unlike, say, two hours of cross-country skiing, it moves quickly and it’s suitable for broadcast on mobile.

If a lot of the Olympics is still trying to find its way out of the first century, never mind the 20th, snowboarding and its offshoots are already living in the future.

Big air was the only event that reliably drew a raucous crowd here. At hockey – once a marquee Olympic sport – they sat on their hands. At long-track speed skating, they seemed to drift off for long sections. If there wasn’t a Chinese in contention anywhere, they couldn’t have cared less.

But at big air, fans were digging it regardless of who was back-flipping toward them. They bunched together and screamed their heads off. After Chinese teenager Su Yiming won gold on Tuesday, it was pandemonium. And I’m just talking about the Chinese press corps. They could hardly function in his suddenly exalted presence.

Now that big air is done, it’s back to the sullen, spaced-out crowds at curling for the last few days of the Games.

The International Olympic Committee does a lot of things wrong, but they deserve credit for making snowboard a centrepiece of the Winter Games. This took some doing. The reaction when the sport was first included at Nagano 1998 might charitably be described as disdain.

There was an early controversy when an American snowboarder said she wasn’t sure she felt comfortable wearing a uniform. Any sort. It was the sport for dropouts.

Another major impression was made by Canada’s Ross Rebagliati after his gold medal was stripped (later reinstated) for testing positive for weed.

That may have been the point a lot of people got off the zero-tolerance doping boat. If the IOC believed smoking a big bowl made you a better acrobat, what else were they wrong about?

Snowboard forced a loosening up at the Olympics. Until those athletes arrived, you didn’t see people mugging for the cameras at the top of the hill. Austrian downhillers were not noted for their super-entertaining postrace press conferences. The default setting was “grim and determined.”

Snowboarders added more than their sport. They reimagined the Olympic attitude. You could be the best at what you did, and still be capable of a non-robotic conversation about your job, or your life, or nothing at all. After a while, that became the expectation. Now you see hulking 35-year-old bobsledders trying to mimic the guileless charm of a Kim or the ease of a McMorris.

There isn’t a whole lot to like about Beijing 2022, but big air, freestyle, slopestyle, snowboard, snowboarders and those who are snowboarders in their hearts, if not on their feet, were a sustained highlight. The best of them – Parrot’s on that list – made history.

Even if circumstances conspired to make this Olympics gnarly, they did their very best to make it rad.

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