Injured Mark McMorris named to Canadian Olympic team

Despite suffering serious injuries in a backcountry crash over the weekend, Mark McMorris was one of two athletes provisionally named to Canada's Olympic snowboard team on Tuesday.

Canada Snowboard also nominated Max Parrot for the squad headed to Pyeongchang in February 2018.

Provided each athlete is healthy and able to meet an easily attainable minimum-performance requirement in a sanctioned event next season, Parrot will be entered in the big air event, which makes its Olympic debut in South Korea, while McMorris competes in slopestyle.

The full Canadian team will be named by the end of January.

McMorris, a 2014 Olympic slopestyle bronze medallist and multiple X Games title winner, is recovering at Vancouver General Hospital after an off-trail accident near Whistler, B.C., on Saturday. The 23-year-old Regina native suffered a broken jaw, broken left arm, ruptured spleen, stable pelvic fracture, rib fractures and a collapsed left lung.

On Tuesday, Craig McMorris posted an Instagram photo of his brother, who appears in good spirits posing next to his mother, Cindy.

"It's really unfortunate what happened to Mark," Parrot told reporters during a Tuesday morning conference call. "It's crazy that he had another accident after [breaking his thighbone] last year [in February 2016]. We're all aware of the dangers of our sport.

"I wish him a fast recovery and I really hope he'll be back on track soon. I know he's in really good hands."

Parrot said he would be travelling to Whistler in two weeks "and maybe it would be good to head [to the hospital] with all the team to see how he's doing."

"He's a big part of the group," added Parrot, "and it's always fun to spend time with him."

McMorris enjoyed a strong 2016-17 season that saw him win a pair of crystal globes as the World Cup season champion in both big air and overall freestyle snowboarding. He also won gold in slopestyle on the Dew Tour and at the Burton U.S. Open, and claimed three X Games medals.

"What it means for Mark is that based on his recovery and his rehabilitation … is his own desire and motivation to make the team next year," Canada Snowboard executive director Patrick Jarvis said in a phone interview on Monday. "He would have to prove a return-to-competition readiness to ensure that he's comfortable riding again, that he's back to the level of prowess that he's used to.

"All fingers crossed and we would certainly hope that Mark is able to do that. Certainly a little too early to speculate whether that will be probable or whether it's still just in the realm of possible."

Parrot, a 22-year-old from Bromont, Que., is coming off a career-best season that included a successful defence of his X Games big air title in Aspen, Colo., where he executed the first quad underflip in competitive snowboard history. He finished second to McMorris in the World Cup big air and overall standings.

Parrot described Tuesday's announcement as a "stress relief" after he qualified for the Sochi Olympics two weeks before the event. Four years ago, he had to quickly book a flight to Russia and obtain a visa.

"It's also hard [on your] family when you don't know if you've qualified for the team," he told CBC Sports. "My parents [Alain and Suzanne Noël] are already looking for flights [to Pyeongchang]."

Parrot's plan is to perfect current tricks

Parrot set a goal entering this season to be one of the two athletes provisionally named to Canada's snowboard team.

"I'm happy I achieved it," he said. "My other goal was to be consistent in my podiums, which I did with 15 [events] and 10 podiums."

Minus some stress, Parrot said he can focus "150 per cent" on training. He noted there are things he would like to try but plans to focus on perfecting his current tricks rather than trying something new.

McMorris, should he recover in time, and Parrot are considered strong medal contenders heading into 2018, especially with the big air event now included alongside slopestyle.

In big air, snowboarders launch themselves off massive jumps in order to complete their tricks, while slopestyle involves competitors going down a course that includes a number of obstacles.

"It's really cool we have big air this time," said Parrot. "It's another great chance for us to inspire more people to get into snowboarding."