Sage Kotsenburg leans on Olympic medalists’ advice going into new season

Sage Kotsenburg
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Sage Kotsenburg is in a situation not unfamiliar to Olympic champions. Kotsenburg became the biggest star in slopestyle snowboarding by winning a surprise gold in Russia, but as he said in February, it was only the second contest he could remember winning since age 11.

The 21-year-old got back on his snowboard in Austria last week, riding for the first time since July. His first competition since the Olympics will be an Air & Style event in Beijing’s 2008 Olympic Stadium the first week of December.

What if Kotsenburg goes back to the pre-Olympic Sage, the rider who qualified for the Olympics behind Shaun White and finished 13th and 15th at the 2013 and 2014 Winter X Games?

Even second place, Kotsenburg’s best-ever finish at a Winter X Games, will not meet many’s expectations.

“I think some people, for sure, think that way,” Kotsenburg said at a New York hair salon recently. “I don’t think that way. Snowboarding is a way tighter community than most.”

Kotsenburg gave examples. An insane run is an insane run regardless of placement. If he landed a trick for the first time — as with the “Holy Crail” at the Olympics, 4 1/2 rotations while grabbing the board behind his back — but had an error elsewhere, it could still be a success.

Winning isn’t everything is a disposition common in snowboarding, one Kotsenburg gained a greater understanding of while listening to one of the greatest riders of all time, Kelly Clark.

Clark was favored going into Sochi to win halfpipe gold. She came away with bronze. Clark, who has won more than 60 competitions, told Kotsenburg that third-place finish marked one of the greatest contests of her career.

“She was having a bad practice [in Russia], couldn’t land anything and she came together in her Olympic [final] run and landed, it’s pretty cool to see,” Kotsenburg said. “That’s a lot of drive.

“Second place can mean so much more than first.”

No rider knows the feeling of second place at the Olympics better than Danny Kass, who won silver behind Ross Powers in 2002 and Shaun White in 2006.

Kotsenburg and Kass spoke at length this summer about Kotsenburg’s potential bid to defend his gold medal in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018.

More pressure the second time, Kass said, but there should also be more fun.

“If you don’t do [well] again, I can imagine it’s going to be maybe a letdown for you,” Kotsenburg said Kass told him, “but you can’t let that take over what you’ve done in the past. You’ve got the gold medal. Go back to win another one, but enjoy it while it happens.”

Kotsenburg was one of the stars of the U.S. Olympic team White House visit on April 3 and then mellowed in the summer, cruising around his Park City, Utah, home and spending plenty of time surfing in California.

“I miss being in the competitive state of mind, the adrenaline,” Kotsenburg said. “I’m excited to get back into it.”

Kelly Clark shrugs off critics after Olympic bronze

Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship
Ironman
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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic marathon champ in 1984, runs London Marathon at 65

Joan Benoit Samuelson
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Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, ran her first 26.2-mile race in three years at Sunday’s London Marathon and won her age group.

Benoit Samuelson, 65, clocked 3 hours, 20 minutes, 20 seconds to top the women’s 65-69 age group by 7 minutes, 52 seconds. She took pleasure in being joined in the race by daughter Abby, who crossed in 2:58:19.

“She may have beaten me with my replacement knee, but everybody said I wouldn’t do it! I will never say never,” Benoit Samuelson said, according to race organizers. “I am a grandmother now to Charlotte, and it’s my goal to run 5K with her.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Benoit Samuelson raced the 1987 Boston Marathon while three months pregnant with Abby. Before that, she won the first Olympic women’s marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, plus the Boston Marathon in 1979 and 1983 and the Chicago Marathon in 1985.

Her personal best — 2:21:21 — still holds up. She ranks sixth in U.S. women’s history.

Benoit Samuelson plans to race the Tokyo Marathon to complete her set of doing all six annual World Marathon Majors. The others are Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York City.

“I’m happy to finish this race and make it to Tokyo, but I did it today on a wing and a prayer,” she said, according to organizers. “I’m blessed to have longevity in this sport. It doesn’t owe me anything, but I feel I owe my sport.”

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