How does a guy from Regina wind up dating a professional surfer from Hawaii? Well, it helps if the guy is Mark McMorris, one of the world's best snowboarders and the winner of Canada's first medal in Sochi with a bronze in Saturday's slopestyle final. That bronze led to a congratulatory tweet from Coco Ho, one of the world's top surfers and McMorris' girlfriend (since at least September, according to The New York Times). Here's what she said:
It must have been an up and down road for Ho to watch, as the scores McMorris and others received were rather controversial; some felt that he deserved better than bronze, especially given that he attempted and landed two highly-difficult triple corks. Ho would appear to agree there; here's what she posted on Instagram with an old photo of the two of them right after the final scores came in, along with this message:
I don't understand anything that just happened.. What I do know is that you're the best and GOLD in life ❤️you @markmcmorris
As Yahoo's Nick Cotsonika writes, though, any medal in Sochi was a pretty notable feat considering how McMorris broke a rib in the X Games just two weeks ago (leading to his "McRib" nickname):
The consolation is this: McMorris grew up in Regina. The closest thing he had to mountains were a couple of valleys. The biggest local hill was 89 metres (292 feet). But he started skateboarding when he was four years old, and he fell in love with snowboarding because he family took yearly trips to Lake Louise, Alta. He became obsessed with it. He became a huge star. He became one of the first three Olympic medalists in the sport. “I’m on an Olympic podium,” he said, “and I’m from Saskatchewan.”
McMorris made the podium just two weeks after breaking his 11th rib, in his back. Muscle seized around it and acted as a cast, and he tried to loosen it up with help from the medical and training staffs. He rehabbed in the water. When he could hit the gym, he hit it hard. Was it painful? “Every time I’d hit that last jump,” he said, “it was.” He didn’t let it show. “He doesn’t let anything faze him, and he certainly wasn’t going to let anything like that take his dream away of being here and being on the podium,” said Adam Burwell, his coach.
It was impressive he was able to compete physically and stay together mentally -- and not just because of the judging issues. His reputation carried the highest expectations, and he was only 20 years old at his first Olympics. He said he had never felt such pressure before. “He’s got the weight of the world, the weight of Canada on him, and he delivered,” Burwell said.
"Yeah, I would have loved to be in the gold medal position, but with what I’ve been through in the last two weeks, just standing on the podium in general feels like a gold medal to me," McMorris said. "It’s just a huge, huge sigh of relief right now."
He looked happy, not angry.
McMorris may be a Regina native, but he's rather a world icon now thanks to his appearances at the X Games, on a MTV reality show with brother Craig, in plenty of globally-shot snowboarding movies and now at the Olympics. He told The New York Times' John Branch in September that he's flown over 160,000 miles in each of the last three years. Moreover, he shines in a variety of sports beyond snowboarding, including wakeboarding and skateboarding, and he's taking up surfing as well, which gives him and Ho plenty in common. Here's a video of them hanging out together and pulling off remarkable moves separately:
While McMorris may be a global icon these days, he still has strong Saskatchewan roots. He told Branch that despite its problematic winters, Regina is "the best place ever in the summer," and amongst his tattoos, he has a couple of sheaves of wheat to represent his home province. He goes back to Regina regularly and recorded a video promo for the Roughriders this past season (perhaps part of what inspired their Grey Cup win?). However, while McMorris' medal will undoubtedly be strongly celebrated in Saskatchewan, the celebrations stretch beyond there now—even out to Hawaii.