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

Olympic flame to travel by sea for Paris 2024, welcomed by armada

Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024
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The Olympic flame will travel from Athens to Marseille by ship in spring 2024 to begin the France portion of the torch relay that ends in Paris on July 26, 2024.

The torch relay always begins in the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece, where the sun’s rays light the flame. It will be passed by torch until it reaches Athens.

It will then cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Belem, a three-masted ship, “reminiscent of a true Homeric epic,” according to Paris 2024. It will arrive at the Old Port of Marseille, welcomed by an armada of boats.

Marseille is a former Greek colony and the oldest city in France. It will host sailing and some soccer matches during the Paris Olympics.

The full 2024 Olympic torch relay route will be unveiled in May.

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Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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