'Mellow' Snowboarder Grabs First US Gold

Sage Kotsenburg does the honors in slopestyle event

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 8, 2014 8:09 AM CST

(Newser) – The first gold medal for the US—in fact, the first gold medal of the Sochi Games, period—is in the books, courtesy of the self-described "super mellow" Sage Kotsenburg of Park City, Utah. The 20-year-old won the not-so-mellow slopestyle snowboarding competition, reports the LA Times. Not familiar? It's the event that Shaun White pulled out of because it's too dangerous, that medal favorite Mark McMorris competed in despite breaking a rib at the X Games last month (he won bronze today), and that another favorite from Norway missed because he broke his collarbone in a training run.

So how did Kotsenburg win? With a trick he had never tried before, of course, not even in practice. USA Today describes it as "four and a half backwards spins (1620 degrees of rotation), while grabbing the backside of his board." Prior to the race, Kotsenburg said pressure wasn't his thing. “I really want to medal just as much as the next guy, but my attitude in the run, if I land, that’s cool,” he said. (Click to read about the ring glitch during the opening ceremony.)

United States' Sage Kotsenburg celebrates after winning the men's snowboard slopestyle competition.
United States' Sage Kotsenburg celebrates after winning the men's snowboard slopestyle competition.   (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
United States' Sage Kotsenburg takes a jump during the men's snowboard slopestyle final.
United States' Sage Kotsenburg takes a jump during the men's snowboard slopestyle final.   (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
United States' Sage Kotsenburg, center, celebrates with  Norway's Staale Sandbech, left, and Canada's Mark McMorris after Kotsenburg won the gold.
United States' Sage Kotsenburg, center, celebrates with Norway's Staale Sandbech, left, and Canada's Mark McMorris after Kotsenburg won the gold.   (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
United States' Sage Kotsenburg takes a jump during the men's snowboard slopestyle final.
United States' Sage Kotsenburg takes a jump during the men's snowboard slopestyle final.   (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
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