- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - Wearing a suit for what he said was the first time, snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg walked off Wednesday with honors for top male athlete at the U.S. Olympic Committee’s inaugural Best of U.S. Awards.

The USOC handed out trophies for the country’s best performers at the Sochi Olympics and Paralympics, as voted on by fans.

Kotsenburg, of Park City, Utah, won the first gold medal at the Olympics in February, in men’s snowboard slopestyle, and so perhaps it was appropriate that he was the first winner Wednesday.

“Whoa. I didn’t really prepare a speech. I didn’t know this was an awards show until last night,” Kotsenburg said on stage at the Warner Theater.

He was decked out in a blue suit that he said he got a couple of days ago, replete with white pocket square and a yellow tie he credited snowboardcross bronze medalist Alex Deibold with tying.

“I had never put a suit on in my life,” Kotsenburg said, “so I was definitely weirded out.”

Still, he’s been getting used to the sorts of obligations and perks that come with being an Olympic champion, such as a series of talk-show appearances.

“It’s something I’ve watched people go through from afar, like Shaun (White) or something, and I’m like, ‘That must be crazy.’ I remember just being in a car, driving from one to another, and just being like, ‘This is wild,’” Kotsenburg said. “It’s really fun, but it’s really crazy. Definitely tiring, but a lot of fun.”

Asked whether any other athletes gave him advice about making the media rounds, he said: “Not really. I kind of just jumped right into it. I think I was a little bit natural at it, I guess. It’s fun for me. I like it.”

Other awards went to luger Erin Hamlin of Remsen, N.Y., for best female Olympian, figure skaters Meryl Davis and Charlie White of Michigan for best team of the Olympics, skeleton’s Noelle Pikus-Pace of Orem, Utah, for best moment of the Olympics, Alpine skier Stephanie Jallen of Harding, Pa., for best female Paralympian and best moment of the Paralympics, Alpine skier Mark Bathum of Mercer Island, Wash., for best male Paralympian, and U.S. men’s sled hockey for best team of the Paralympics.

“This is unreal. Luge, like probably most of you know, isn’t the most popular sport,” Hamlin said, drawing laughter from the audience, “so getting this for my sport is amazing.”

Her bronze at the Sochi Games made her the first American woman to win an Olympic luge medal - and the first singles medal for the U.S. in the sport.

“I hope it’s a little bit more popular after this, maybe,” Hamlin said. “People know what it is now, I think.”

The awards show will air on NBCSN next Monday.


Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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