Stylish Kotsenburg lands double first

Sat Feb 8, 2014 7:40am EST
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By Nick Mulvenney

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - American Sage Kotsenburg laid down an almost flawless first run to win the first gold medal of the Sochi Games as snowboarding slopestyle made a spectacular Olympic debut on Saturday.

Kotsenburg's run, the third of the day, earned him 93.50 points, which proved enough to make him a surprise champion in a low-scoring contest where judges favoured stylists over big jumpers.

"I'm really excited," said Kotsenburg. "It feels awesome. I don't know what to call it. I have no idea what's actually going on. This is the craziest thing that ever happened."

Staale Sandbech nailed his second run to snatch the silver medal for Norway with 91.75, while Canadian Mark McMorris, who was riding with a broken rib, was awarded 88.75 for his second run to take bronze and round out a podium of 20-year-olds.

There had been concerns that the withdrawal of America's Shaun White might devalue the maiden event, but the biggest name in snowboarding, and the safety concerns that caused him to pull out of the event, were a distant memory on Saturday.

Slopestyle was brought into the Games to try to help attract a younger demographic, and there could not have been a better advertisement for the sport than the first final.

The fans in the stands jigged to pumping rock music as the competitors performed their tricks on rails and over jumps against a backdrop of snowcapped mountains and the brightest of blue skies.

"Today was a great debut for slopestyle," said McMorris. "I think the future for slopestyle is extremely bright."   Continued...

Winner Sage Kotsenburg of the U.S. celebrates after the men's snowboard slopestyle final competition at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games in Rosa Khutor, February 8, 2014. Kotsenburg won the men's snowboarding slopestyle title at the Sochi Games on Saturday, the first gold medal of the 2014 Winter Olympics. REUTERS/Mike Blake