Kotsenburg needed to navigate the semifinals early Saturday, putting together a ride that gave him the confidence boost he needed. He placed second in the semifinals then rolled with a medal on the line.
Still, there was drama as he waited out the rest of the 12-man field. He stood off to the side after his second run, a not-quite-as-sharp 83.25, and clapped behind a nervous smile as the rest of the field aimed for his score.
McMorris, slowed by a broken rib, couldn’t quite get there. A gold medal favorite before his injury at X Games last month, McMorris needed to scramble to get through the semifinals and his trip down the hill in the finals was solid but lacked the fireworks necessary to unseat Kotsenburg.
Rather than wear any “armor” to protect his rib cage, McMorris relied on a team of specialists that tried to make him as comfortable as possible. Considering the circumstances, it could have been worse.
“They got me from a broken rib to on my snowboard in the span of nine days,” McMorris said. “They kept pushing me and pushing me. It’s been the most draining week in my life.”
Sandbech, who went next to last, was nearly flawless. He was so pumped after his second run he belly-flopped onto the ground. His 91.75 wasn’t quite good enough, leaving only Canadian Max Parrot in Kotsenburg’s path to the gold.
Parrot dominated qualifying, posting the best score of the week. He put together a near perfect first run only to sit on the landing of his final jump then wobbled twice on his second run and scraped the ground with his hand after landing his final trick. He dropped his head when his 87.25 popped up on the scoreboard while Kotsenburg raised his arms in triumph to get the U.S. off to a golden start in what should be a competitive race at the medal table.
“I can’t even describe the feeling,” Kotsenburg said. “It’s so cool.”