Sochi Winter Olympics: Underdog American Strikes Gold in Slopestyle

By Andre Khatchaturian
BU News Service

Ask an American to name a snowboarder and the first name that will most likely come to mind is Shaun White.

They may want to learn a second name now: Sage Kotsenburg.

After White pulled out of the Men’s Slopestyle event, several international favorites emerged as gold medal favorites. However, it was Kotsenburg who pulled off a major upset and won the gold medal by delivering a nearly flawless first run with a score of 93.50.

The 20-year-old Idaho native was not among the eight riders to qualify in Thursday’s qualification round. He needed to qualify in the final round by finishing with a top-four score in the semifinals, which took place just a few hours before the medal round.

Even after qualifying for the final round, Kotsenburg was a long shot to medal – let alone win gold. Stale Sandbech of Norway, Max Parrot of Canada, Sven Thorgren of Sweden, and Roope Tonteri of Finland all put up magnificent qualifying scores and were expected to compete for the gold.

Slopestyle requires riders to snowboard down a mountain with several obstacles and jumps and they are judged based on the creativity and difficulty of their jumps. Riders have two runs and the best score stands.

During the first run, eight of the 12 finalists crashed and as a result, only three riders received scores above 80. Kotsenburg’s run was nearly flawless, though, and he took over first place early and never looked back. In the second run, six riders cracked 80, but nobody was able to top Kotsenburg’s first round score.

Sandbech had a run of 91.75 in the second run – good enough for the silver medal. Meanwhile, Mark McMorris had a score of 88.75 on his second run and that gave him the bronze.

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