The First Sochi Gold Medal Winner Won with a Jump He'd Never Tried Before

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 8 2014 11:46 AM

First Sochi Gold Medal Winner Decided at the Last Minute to Do a Jump He'd Never Tried Before

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Sage Kotsenburg takes first place during the Snowboarding Men's Slopestyle at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park

Photo by Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images

It’s difficult to imagine how Sage Kotsenburg could be more chilled out. After winning the first gold medal of the Sochi Games, the 20-year-old seemed as surprised as anyone that he had just pulled off a “1620 Japan Air Mute Grab,” which involves spinning four-and-a-half times in the air while grabbing your snowboard and arching your back. “I can’t believe I landed that,” he said, according to Bloomberg. “You’re like a pretzel in the air.”

No one else tried that jump—one that Kotsenburg calls the "Holy Crail"—and it seems to have clinched the American the gold medal in men’s slopestyle on Saturday. But don’t think it was all part of a grand plan. Kotsenburg says that he decided to try it a mere three minutes before his run. “I had never, ever tried that trick before in my life,” he claimed. It may seem crazy to improvise to such a degree in the Olympics, but that's how this guy rolls.

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"I kind of do random stuff all the time, never make a plan up," Kotsenburg said. "It's kind of what I'm all about." It’s just another example of how the 20-year-old “is playfully different than most of his competitors,” notes the New York Times.

How different? Well, he’s an Olympic athlete who isn’t a big fan of working out. “I’m super mellow, laid-back. I’m not like the normal guy that goes in the gym and trains. I haven’t been in the gym since September.”

Talking to reporters, Kotsenburg made it clear that he wants the gold, sure, but he won’t let the pressure get to him or ruin his enjoyment of snowboarding.

“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, according to the Los Angeles Times. “If not, I need to try harder obviously. That’s just how I snowboard.”

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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