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article imageU.S. snowboarder Kotsenburg wins men's Olympic slopestyle gold

By Barnaby Chesterman (AFP)     Feb 8, 2014 in World

Sage Kotsenburg of the United States claimed the first gold medal of the Sochi Winter Olympics on Saturday in men's slopestyle and hailed his fellow snowboarders for their band of brothers mentality.

The 20-year-old said he would have been just as happy had either silver medallist Staale Sandbech of Norway or Canada's bronze medallist Mark McMorris finished on top of the podium.

"On a global level at the Olympics it's sick to have snowboarding in there," he said.

"All of us were having a blast in there and you could see us high-fiving at the bottom. It's not like we're bummed out when other people come down and land a ride, we're equally as stoked for the next person to land a ride.

"I grew up with Mark and Staale, I've known them for the past six years. We've all become really good friends. We're not like enemies at all, we love each other."

Sandbech agreed and said snowboarders were more chilled out than athletes in other sports.

Winner Kotsenburg of the U.S. celebrates after the men s snowboard slopestyle final competition at t...
Winner Kotsenburg of the U.S. celebrates after the men's snowboard slopestyle final competition at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games in Rosa Khutor
MIKE BLAKE, Reuters

"We're just out here, snowboarding, smiling and being friends," he said.

"It's not like we're training in secret and hiding from the other guys, (or) we can't do handshakes because we don't want to get sick and all that. I guess we're more laid back and loose about it."

Kotsenburg only qualified for the final in Saturday morning's second chance semi-finals and following Thursday's heats had criticised the judges' scoring after he failed to earn a direct route into the final.

But his first run scored 93.50 and although some of his rivals put in high scores on their second runs, the American held on for victory.

Sandbech (91.75) claimed silver with the penultimate run of the event while McMorris, another who'd complained about scoring following an unsuccessful heat, took bronze with 88.75.

Norway's Staale Sandbech competes in the Men's Snowboard Slopestyle Final at the Rosa Khut...
Norway's Staale Sandbech competes in the Men's Snowboard Slopestyle Final at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 8, 2014
Javier Soriano, AFP

McMorris still wasn't pleased with the scoring in the final but said this time he thought he'd benefitted as he expected team-mate Maxence Parrot to overtake him with the last run of the competition.

"The judging, you never know with these guys. It was so tense and even if somebody lands, maybe (they) don't see everything," he said.

"I automatically (thought) yeah, I'm done, I'm not on the podium.

"It's disappointing but he (Parrot) rode good. I was about to walk out and the guy (official) was like 'wait you don't know', and I was like 'I'm pretty sure I know', and then the score came up and I was still in third."

Sage Kotsenburg celebrates his Gold Medal at the end of the Men's Snowboard Slopestyle Final at...
Sage Kotsenburg celebrates his Gold Medal at the end of the Men's Snowboard Slopestyle Final at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 8, 2014
Franck Fife, AFP

Sandbech said standing on the podium with two such close friends made the experience all the more special.

"The boys killed it. I've got two of my best friends on the podium," he said.

"Snowboarding has no kind of limits. You can do bigger tricks and you can do more spins and more flips. You can do different grabs and you can do more grabs.

"I look up to Sage and Mark. We're just three best friends pretty much."

More about oly, 2014, Snowboard, slopestyle, Men
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