American Sage Kotsenburg Wins First Gold medal of Sochi Olympics
A 20-year-old bro from Utah, Sage Kotsenburg, just gave the U.S. its first gold medal of the Sochi Games, winning the Olympic debut of men’s slopestyle on Saturday at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. The laid-back, blonde-haired now-Olympic-champion wowed judges with his jaw-dropping first run in the final, earning a stunning 93.50 points. The win is a big moment in Olympic history: it's the first medal to be won by a U.S. Olympian in Russia.
“It feels awesome,” said Kotsenburg. “I don’t know what to call it. I have no idea what’s actually going on. This is the craziest thing that ever happened.”
Mark McMorris of Canada went home with the bronze, but it was no doubt a disappointment for the athlete, who'd been eyed as a gold-medal favorite before breaking a rib at the X Games in late January. Taking the silver was Norwegian Staale Sandbech.
Kotsenburg, who said his parents were too nervous to come to Russia and were instead watching from back home in the U.S., impressed everyone with his cool as much as with his skill, telling reporters: “I’m super mellow, laid-back. I’m not like the normal guy that goes in the gym and trains. I haven’t been in the gym since September."
So what exactly is slopestyle snowboarding? A staple of ESPN’s Winter X Games for over a decade now, the high-adrenaline sport involves athletes sliding on rails and shooting off snow ramps to show off a dizzying array of aerial tricks, like the double nose-grab and the Japan air. Really excellent snowboarders will even get creative — for the finals, Kotsenburg unveiled a new trick called the "Holy Crail," trying it for the very first time as leapt off the second ramp and spun 4½ times.
"I'd never even tried it before, literally," Kotsenburg said. "Never ever tried it before in my life."
The only other time Russia has played host to the Olympics — the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow— the United States boycotted the event, making today's American win all the more exciting. Saturday was also the Olympic debut of the sport; the women’s slopestyle event is scheduled for Sunday.
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Image: Getty Images