- Associated Press - Saturday, January 18, 2014

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. (AP) - Sage Kotsenburg figures it’s been nine or 10 years since he won a slopestyle contest.

What a time to end that drought.

The man they call “Second-Run Sage” threw down his winning score of 95.4 on the first run Saturday and wrapped up his spot on the U.S. Olympic team with a long-awaited victory in the season’s last qualifying event.

“I just went out, I was like, ‘I don’t care if I do go or if I don’t,’” said the 20-year-old from Park City, Utah. “I wanted to leave the politics and statistics aside and just go snowboarding. That’s what we’re here for, not for a points race.”

He’ll be in Sochi with Shaun White, who wrapped up his slopestyle spot Thursday and took the day off. White is expected to ride Sunday in the halfpipe contest, where he still needs a top result to guarantee himself a chance at winning a third-place medal.

Jamie Anderson won the women’s contest, making it 3-for-3 this week in Mammoth. She had secured her Olympic spot with her two victories Thursday and said she’s been bombarded by champagne toasts ever since.

“It’s special to come together for the Olympics because of how much love you get for your country,” said Anderson, who will head to Sochi as the gold-medal favorite. “You’re representing your nation. It’s something I’ve never done before.”

Slopestyle is making its Olympic debut in Russia and the organizers there can only hope for as good a week as the U.S. riders had in Mammoth.

There were sunny skies and fast conditions for all the contests, a marked change from last month in Colorado, where a qualifier in Copper Mountain was bland because of bad weather and another in Breckenridge got snowed out.

It made for a jam-packed week with an extra qualifying event added.

Kotsenburg, who had two second-place finishes heading into Saturday, said there were so many scenarios swirling about that he finally just stopped worrying about it.

“That’s when I ride my best anyway, is when I’m having fun,” he said.

The big jumps on his winning run included a frontside 900 and a double-flipping 1260.

With the big score already secured, he tried a new grab on run No. 2 - one he calls the “Holy Crail.” But he couldn’t pull it off.

“It’s so gnarly,” he said. “You get all pretzeled up and you spin into a vortex and don’t really know what’s going on. … I tried whipping it out here because I’d love to try it in Russia.”

Men’s slopestyle starts Feb. 6, day before the Opening Ceremony.

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