It was a moment both humbling and historic for 20-year-old Sage Kotsenburg Saturday afternoon. In the first-ever medal event of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, he earned the first gold not just from Sochi, but the first ever in snowboard slopestyle’s Olympic debut. And he did it his way, with inventive runs that made an impression on the judges—like hisHoly Crail, a trick that he invented this past fall in hopes of becoming a contender.
It was a surprise even to Kotsenburg, who, though always a strong force on Team USA, and despite qualifying second in the semifinals earlier Saturday morning, never imagined climbing to the top of the podium:
"Whoa how random is this I made finals at the Olympics!!!"
Kotsenburg’s first run, which included the first-ever competition backside 1620 Japan grab, earned him a 93.5, a score that would carry the day.
Canadian Mark McMorris has been the first-place favorite for months—yet he finished, shockingly, with the bronze. McMorris fell on his first finals run, settling into a disappointing ninth place out of 12 after the rest of the field had had their first go. His second attempt was inarguably solid, including a backside 540 over the Russian nesting doll, a Cab triple cork 1260, and a frontside double cork 1080, finishing with a backside triple cork 1440. Twitter was aflame during the event, with snowboarding fans calling foul on the judges once again for their scoring of the 20-year-old from Saskatchewan; he earned only an 88.75, though it was enough to bump him into silver-medal position.
Ultimately, however, McMorris’ second-place finish would be stolen by Norwegian Ståle Sandbech, whose 91.75-point second run included technical jib tricks like a 450 off the cannon feature and a kicker series of switch frontside 1260 to frontside 1440 to a backside triple cork Indy 1440.