All the talk leading up to the slopestyle final was about Canadian domination and triple corks.
American Sage Kotsenburg put an end to that.
Scoring a 93.50 on his first run, Kotsenburg earned the first gold medal of the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the first-ever gold medal awarded in the new snowboarding slopestyle discipline.
Kotsenburg has eschewed the trend of hucking huge triple corks, instead finding other ways to progress the sport. Not only did he have creative maneuvers in the rail section and unique grabs on the jumps, he also decided to go for it all and bust out a new trick – a backside 1620 with a Japan grab – that was both stylish and technical at the same time.
Kotsenburg had never attempted the backside 1620 before his run – not even in practice – but decided to try it after talking to his coach and his brother.
According to Kotsenburg, U.S. Snowboarding team coach Bill Enos told him, “If you do the 1620, I guarantee you’re gonna land it.”
So the 20-year-old from Park City, Utah went for it. “I dropped in, no stress, just having fun and doing stuff I normally do. And it ended up working out,” Kotsenburg said after his victory.
Kotsenburg kept it stylish. (Photo: Getty Images)
Once again for McMorris, it came down to his second run. He landed a clean run with two triple corks – one on the first jump, one on the last jump – but was still scored five points shy of Kotsenburg’s first-run score. It put him in second place for the time being, but he was bumped down to third soon after by Sandbech after the Norwegian’s second run.
Canadian Max Parrot – the top qualifier in Thursday’s opening round – was expected to contend for a gold medal as well but finished off the podium. Like McMorris, Parrot attempted two triples on his first run but washed out on the second one. He changed it up the second time out but with only one triple, he ended up in fifth just behind Sweden’s Sven Thorgren.
Sandbech and McMorris joined Kotsenburg on the podium. (Photo: Getty Images)
It was widely expected that it would not be possible to win in Sochi without one of those much-talked about triple corks. But Kotsenburg stood his ground and decided he was going to do things his way.
In the end, he was the one rewarded.
“It ended up working out in my favor because everyone was doing the same grabs and tricks today,” Kotsenburg said.
Kotsenburg had a busy day thanks to the format of the Olympic slopestyle event. After failing to qualify through Thursday’s opening round, he had to get in through the semifinal just a few hours earlier in the day on Saturday. He finished second in the semi, becoming the lone American rider to earn a spot in the final.
Great Britain’s Jamie Nicholls – another rider who landed a triple cork – finished sixth in the final with 2010 halfpipe silver medalist Peetu Piiroinen of Finland behind him in seventh. Japan’s Yuki Kadono, Canada’s Sebastien Toutant and Great Britain’s Billy Morgan rounded out the top ten.