SOCHI, Russia — The unshakable randomness of being snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg can hit at the most remarkable times.
It’s one thing to pull out a brand new trick on, say, an ordinary Saturday in Park City, Utah. But in an Olympic final?
“I like doing crazy things, like spontaneous moves,” Kotsenburg said. “I had this idea in my mind all day. It ended up working out.”
In the men’s slopestyle final at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on Saturday, Kotsenburg unveiled the move at the end of his first run, a trick called a Backside Double Cork 1620 Japan. He walked away with the first gold medal of these Olympics, scoring 93.50 in his first of two runs. Only the better run counts.
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The last-minute call was in lock step with the attitude and vibe of the 20-year-old from Park City, who came to Russia determined to stay his chilled-out self. In his own words, to march to his own beat.
This was the sparkling Olympic debut of slopestyle, and there will be no going back after its successful unveiling on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon.
Staale Sandbech of Norway won the silver medal and Mark McMorris of Canada grabbed the bronze.
Sandbech put down a 91.75 on his second run. Kotsenburg and Sandbech were the only two snowboarders to have runs receiving more than 90 points.
Before the final, Kotsenburg called his older brother Blaze at home in Park City and indicated he was thinking of tweaking his run to include the “Back 16 Japan,” a 4½ rotation with a backboard grab.
Blaze, who designed Sage’s snowboard, asked him if he had ever tried the trick.
“That’s what I’m all about,” Kotsenburg said later. “Doing weird stuff.”
Kotsenburg was pitch-perfect on the course. He hugged his main competitors after their runs and a full-scale bromance was in the air in the finish area with his “homies.”
His win was considered a significant upset. Kotsenburg won the last qualifier at Mammoth about three weeks ago, and joked that he had a “mega drought,” saying that his last win before that was when he was 11 years old.
This event had been in the spotlight because snowboarding icon Shaun White pulled out Wednesday, a day before the start of competition, citing the potential risk of injury.
Medal favorite Norwegian Torstein Horgmo had to pull out because of a broken collarbone suffered in a training run.
There were no such mishaps Saturday.