- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014

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 Couer d’Alene, Idaho, native, who peppers his interviews with “whoas” and “gnarly” and often refers to himself as “your boy.”

One that’s now an Olympic champion.

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 leapt 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.

Kotsenburg has spent most of his career on the sport’s second tier. When he captured the final Olympic qualifying event in California last month, it was his first win since he was 11.

“I had a mega drought,” he said with a laugh.

The dry run is over, though the momentum from his victory at Mammoth Mountain initially didn’t carry over to Sochi.

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