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Surprise in men's snowboard slopestyle final

Published On: Feb 08 2014 03:58:14 AM CST
Updated On: Feb 08 2014 04:20:40 AM CST
Slopestyle final

REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

American snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg won the men's slopestyle competition on Saturday to become the first Olympic gold medalist in the newly added event.

Rounding out the top three were silver medalist Staale Sandbech of Norway and bronze medalist Mark McMorris of Canada.

Neither Kotsenburg nor American teammates Ryan Stassel and Chas Guldemond excelled in Thursday's preliminary heats, all failing to score high enough to advance automatically to the final round. Because of that, they had to finish in the top four of the semifinals earlier on Saturday, with only Kotsenburg doing so.

Kotsenburg, a 20-year-old Park City, Utah, native, won Winter X Games slopestyle silver in 2012 behind McMorris and also won slopestyle silver at the European X Games in 2010. However, he failed to qualify for the slopestyle final at this year's edition of the X Games, finishing 15th in the 16-man elimination round field late last month in Aspen, Colo.

Still, Kotsenburg saw his slopestyle world ranking leap from 21st to 10th overall over the 2013 World Snowboard Tour season.

He secured his first Olympic berth with two second-place finishes and a win in the final three U.S. Sprint Grand Prix events last month at Mammoth Mountain, Calif.

Snowboard slopestyle, one of 12 events new to the Olympics this year, has proved to be one of the most popular at the Winter X Games over the years. Slopestyle, which is also being introduced with skiers in Sochi, features a steep course with a series of challenging aerial stunts, ramps and rails.

The field for the first slopestyle event in Olympics history was narrowed a bit by injury before it even began.

Shaun White, the American who already owns two snowboarding halfpipe Olympic golds and will go for a third in Sochi, pulled out of the event to focus on the halfpipe after falling and jamming his wrist during a practice run Tuesday.

He was hardly the first Sochi competitor the course at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park has claimed.

Norway's Torstein Horgmo, one of the favorites in the event, broke his collarbone while riding the course's rails on Monday and Finland's Marika Enne hit her head and suffered a concussion shortly after White's fall.

McMorris, one of the favorites going into Sochi, was working through injuries himself after crashing during his third and final slopestyle run during the 2014 Winter X Games last month. The crash cost him his shot at a third consecutive X Games gold medal in the event. Instead, he settled for silver, his fourth X Games slopestyle medal and sixth overall.

Going into the Olympics, McMorris told The Associated Press he was feeling "pretty good" and didn't think the injury would hamper him in Sochi.

McMorris also struggled in the preliminary heats, failing to automatically advance to the final round. In Saturday's semifinals, he missed his landing on the final jump of his first run before scoring an 89.25 on his second run. That put in him into third place and knocked Stassel out of meadal contention, but McMorris still had to wait out five more athletes to see if he would advance to the finals.

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