In a triumph of creativity over gymnastics, American Sage Kotsenburg took the gold medal in a new Winter Olympics event: slopestyle snowboarding.
Kotsenburg was, for many, an underdog.
How did he do it?
Kotsenburg brought home the gold, in part, by using one of his newly patented tricks, something he dubs the "Holy Crail."
The Holy Crail is a two-handed grab done during three or four mid-air spins. Kotsenburg reaches behind his back and pulls on his board, while the other hand grabs the nose of the snowboard. The Denver Post's Jason Blevins writes that Kotsenburg unveiled the "Holy Crail" two weeks ago at Aspen's X Games.
Holy Crail is also the name of a sponsored TransWorld Snowboarding video series that features Sage Kotsenburg's journey to the Olympics. The first video aired in December 2013. Coincidence?
Kotsenburg was a surprise gold medal winner, especially to medal favorites Canadians Max Parrot and Mark McMorris. Until now, snowboarding judges have tended to give the highest scores to those who performed the most difficult tricks. Parrot, for example, is a master of the triple cork and won the X-Games Big Air and Slopestyle contests with triples. (A cork or corkscrew spin is when the axis of the spin allows for the snowboarder to be oriented sideways or upside-down in the air, typically without becoming completely inverted.)
But the Sochi judges apparently chose creativity and style over gymnastic prowess. Kotsenberg, who didn't perform any triple corks, unexpectedly threw in a 1620 (4.5 rotations) Japan Air (the front hand grabs the toe edge just behind the front foot. The board is then pulled behind the rider) in his last run, and took home the gold.
TransWorld Snowboarding offers a trick by trick look at Katsenburg's gold medal run.
After he got into the Olympic slopestyle finals Friday, he told the Denver Post:
“At the end of the day, I’m not going to let a score judge how I snowboard. It’s like I’m not going to succumb to just doing normal stuff and not how I really snowboard. I think that’s whack. I just kept going and kept it weird and everyone in snowboarding was really stoked on it.”
“Maybe I was just too in between last time and I didn’t do enough of the weird stuff. So I made it even weirder.”
In Olympic slopestyle snowboarding, weirder is now the winning formula.