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First Gold Medal Goes To An American

United States' Sage Kotsenburg takes a jump during the men's snowboard slopestyle final at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, on Saturday.
Sergei Grits
United States' Sage Kotsenburg takes a jump during the men's snowboard slopestyle final at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, on Saturday.

Slopestyle snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg has won the first gold medal in the Sochi Olympics. Kotsenburg, 20, is from Park City, Utah, and seemed surprised by the whole thing.

He wasn't expected to medal and then he brought out a move he calls the "Holy Crail."

"It's a grab that I invented a couple months ago," said Kotsenberg at a news conference after winning gold. "It's pretty cool to do it here at the first-ever Slopestyle event, because it's just like, kind of like my own flare on the course and I'm definitely into doing creative stuff. And I guess the judges were pretty hyped on that stuff today."

He said his winning run was the best of his life.

"Honestly, it feels like a dream right now," he said. "It's seriously the craziest thing ever... I didn't really like think it would happen."

If you've never heard of Slopestyle before, you probably haven't been following the Winter X Games. The extreme snow sport features rail sliding and big jumps with twists and flips, sort of like half pipe meets skate park. Slopestyle made its Olympic debut at these games, and the finals went off without a hitch, after early controversy over the safety of the course.

The world's best-known snowboarder, Shaun White, dropped out before the competition began citing an injury and concerns about the course. The boarder who in the weeks leading up to the games was favored for gold, Canada's Mark McMorris, won the bronze. He was still recovering from a rib injury suffered in an earlier competition. Silver went to Norway's Staale Sandbech.

Kotsenburg didn't initially qualify for the finals, only making it in after a strong performance in the morning's semi-final rounds. He tweeted: "Whoa how random is this I made finals at the Olympics!!!"

How did he prepare? He skipped last night's Opening Ceremony and stayed in his room with a few friends eating chocolate, chips and onion rings and watching the events on television.

After the American team walked in, he switched off the ceremony and then fell asleep watching the movie Fight Club, which, as he puts it, is all about "getting stoked, you know."

Apparently, it worked.

Kotsenburg looks and sounds a little like Sean Penn's surfer dude character Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High and a side-by-side photo is making the rounds on Twitter. Asked about it, Kotsenburg said, "That is sick. I'm so down with that. That is pretty awesome that someone did that. I am stoked to see that."

American Women Dominate in First Hockey Match-Up:

It took less than a minute for the American women's ice hockey team to score a goal. Hilary Knight scored the first of three goals racked up by the American women in their match against Finland. The final score was 3-1 with Kelli Stack and Alex Carpenter also making goals.

This game is part of the early qualifying round. The women's next match is Monday against Switzerland. Then it's on to Canada, the American women's fiercest rival. The two teams have met numerous times over the past year and know one another well. They've even gotten into a couple of fights on the ice that made them minor YouTube sensations. Unless something unexpected happens (and that's always possible in sports), the gold medal match on February is likely to bring the American and Canadian women together on the ice again.

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Tamara Keith
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
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