USA's Sage Kotsenburg wins gold

ESPNAPI_IMG_NO_ALTEXT_Value

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- The kid they call "second-run Sage" didn't waste time putting down the run of his life.

Sage Kotsenburg tamed the treacherous slopestyle course at the Extreme Park on Saturday, grabbing the first gold medal of the Sochi Olympics. And he did it with a run that left the 20-year-old American who talks like a surfer and rides like a purist momentarily stunned in disbelief.

Kotsenburg's soulful first run in the finals ended with a score of 93.50 that held up over the next 30 minutes as the rest of the field's dozen riders failed to catch the laid-back athlete from Park City, Utah, who peppers his interviews with "whoas" and "gnarly" and often refers to himself as "your boy."

One that's now an Olympic champion.

Kotsenburg expressed his excitement on Twitter and thanked fans for their support.

Staale Sandbech of Norway grabbed silver while Canadian Mark McMorris, who nearly missed the finals because of a broken rib, surged to bronze as slopestyle provided an electric Olympic debut.

While the course that chased teammate Shaun White to the apparent safety of the halfpipe took out its fair share of riders, Kotsenburg kept his cool in the finals.

Then again, that's just his way.

His blonde hair flapping from under his helmet as he soared through the sun-splashed Caucasus Mountains, Kotsenburg looked as if he were cruising down the hill with his buddies even as he soared off ramps that are the equivalent of leaping out of three three-story buildings in the span of 15 seconds.

In a sport built on signature moments as much as it is built on triumphs, Kotsenburg provided both when he came  off the second ramp, unveiling a new trick that impressed the judges and drew oohs from the packed stands.

He calls it the "Holy Crail," a move that makes it appear as if he's spinning like a top as he rotates 4½ times, grabbing the board behind his back in the process.

"I'd never even tried it before, literally," Kotsenburg said. "Never ever tried it before in my life."

Not that it stopped him as he put to bed the notion of being everybody's favorite runner-up by taking the biggest event of his life.

The trick will officially go down as a "1620 Japan Air Mute Grab."

"I kind of do random stuff all the time, never make a plan up," Kotsenburg said. "I had no idea I was even going to do a 1620 in my run until three minutes before I dropped. It's kind of what I'm all about."

Sandbech, McMorris and Winter X Games champion Max Parrot were among those who threw the much-ballyhooed triple cork, which is three head-over-heels flips -- considered way more dangerous and athletic and presumed to be the must-have trick to win the first Olympic gold in this sport's history.

Kotsenburg never tried one.

But rider after rider came off the course and concluded that Kotsenburg's win symbolized a shift in the sport; that judges are looking for more technical moves with so-called style rather than a simple gymnastics meet on the snow.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...