Carlos Garcia Knight topped the men's big air qualifying at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics with the sickest performance, but could not produce tricks with the same degree of rude health in the final.

He finished 11th of 12 starters in the event's debut at the Games.

The 20-year-old from Christchurch attempted and failed to land a 1620-degree switchback on two occasions.

Runs of 39.25 and 44.00 placed him out of medal contention. On the third run he executed soundly for a mark of 54.25 in what one commentator termed "a slow one for the photographers".

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Garcia Knight needed to land two of his three tricks to get into podium contention.

He raced down the 50m ramp - tipped to 40 degrees at its steepest point - and shot into the ether.

The judges were poised to assess his execution, amplitude, trick difficulty and stability of the landing.

Each rider was entitled to three attempts, with the lowest score dropped and the two highest combined for a total. They needed to spin their tricks in opposite directions during those runs.

Canada's Sebastien Toutant won with an aggregate score of 174.25, which included a best of 89.50 on his second run.

American Kyle Mack was second on 168.75, and Brit Billy Morgan third on 168.

Garcia Knight topped qualifying when the judges rated the second of his jumps as a 97.50.

His performance saw him join the ranks of pole vaulter Eliza McCartney, motocross rider Levi Sherwood and All Black Ben Smith as "New Zealand sportspeople good at tricks in the air".

Sixteen-year-olds Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and Nico Porteous also joined that club with respective bronze medal efforts in the snowboard big air and freeski halfpipe on Thursday.

Garcia Knight finished fifth in snowboarding's slopestyle discipline earlier in the Games.

"I had been going well in training and was going to balance two tricks this time - the switchback 16[20] then the frontside triple 14[40]," he told Sky Sport.

"I hadn't done the frontside 14 many times – it takes a lot of energy. It just came down to snowboarding. I had to challenge the conditions – the speed and light – and it came down to how I rode.

"I'm not super excited with how it all went, but I'm proud of this Winter Olympics [campaign]. It's been huge."

Garcia Knight paid tribute to the support he had received from family and friends at home.

"They've sent so much love. It's worth it just to have them so excited.

"I thought I would've burned out and been over it [after competing], but it's the complete opposite."

Leading into the final, Garcia Knight was 75th on the international season points list, he was 18th at the world championships in Spain last year, and had a best result this season of 15th in the Beijing World Cup round.

He will now head to the US Open and hopes to embark on a film project soon, but only after taking the chance to "relax a bit and enjoy it".