Sage Kotsenburg
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Sage Kotsenburg will not defend Olympic slopestyle title

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Sage Kotsenburg, the first Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, will not defend his title in PyeongChang and is finished with contest riding.

Kotsenburg, 23, said he chose to devote the rest of his career to filming snowboarding movies rather than competing. It’s a common transition in the sport, but an unusual one for a reigning Olympic gold medalist.

“It had been on my mind since literally the day I won in Sochi,” said Kotsenburg, who last competed in early 2016. “I had my heart set on stopping competing after the Olympics, and then winning puts you in such a different mindset. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do anymore. I was on a high, so pumped on competing. I would get to the contests [after Sochi], and I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t have the edge to try this new trick anymore. All the time, I’m looking at [social media] posts from other people riding in Switzerland and Whistler [Canada] filming backcountry. I thought, I want to be there right now.

“I finally said to myself, I’ve got to do what makes me happy. Competing doesn’t make me happy right now.”

Kotsenburg said relief flooded over him after telling sponsors — including Oakley, Monster, GoPro and Stance socks — he would not ride in competition anymore. He wanted to know if they would stick with him during his filming career, but he understood if they felt otherwise.

“Each one of them said we’re happy to have you on board and keep it going,” he said. “After I told them, it was so much pressure off my chest. I knew I could just go snowboarding again.”

Growing up in Park City, Kotsenburg was fixated more on snowboarding movies than following contests. Though he’ll never forget watching the U.S. sweep the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic men’s halfpipe and then meeting Ross PowersDanny Kass and J.J. Thomas as an 8-year-old.

Kotsenburg was truly a surprise Olympic champion in 2014, taking gold after going into his first Winter Games with a goal to “make snowboarding look cool.” The Park City native later said President Obama told him, “Sage, this guy was like the favorite moment of the Games.”

“Looking back on it in 30 or 40 years, I’ll remember all the hard work and stress and craziness that went into it,” Kotsenburg said. “It was so worth it in the end. It’s something that’s made me who I am today. I think about it every day.”

Kotsenburg was at best inconsistent at the Winter X Games before and after his Sochi breakout — fifth in 2010, 10th in 2011, second in 2012, 13th in 2013, 15th in 2014, fifth in 2015 and 10th in 2016. Kotsenburg’s win at the last U.S. Olympic qualifier in January 2014 marked his first trip to the top of a slopestyle podium in about nine years.

In Sochi, Kotsenburg took gold by landing a cab double cork 1260 with a Kotsenburg-invented Holy Crail grab and a back 1620 Japan Air, trying the latter trick for the first time in his life (he hasn’t tried it since). The rider known as “Second-Run Sage” did it on his first run, scoring 93.5 points.

After the Olympics, Kotsenburg capitalized on his gold. He ate a bacon gold medal given to him by Conan O’Brien, listened to Obama call him “sick and chill” and took his gold medal out of a white sock on “Mad Money” with Jim Cramer.

“Being backstage on Letterman, I was tripping,” he said. “Craziest one was definitely going to the White House and meeting Obama was insane. He said he watched the Olympics, and I had the chillest and most relaxed interview he had ever seen.”

Kotsenburg said he still needs to get a proper box to store his medal. He joked he might rather buy a manikin and hang it around its neck along with some cool outerwear.

Before what would have been the last contest of his career, Kotsenburg essentially suffered a concussion at Fenway Park in training at a big air event in February 2016. Kotsenburg said the head injury was very minor and that it did not factor into his retirement decision.

Kotsenburg spent all last winter riding in Alaska, Wyoming, Lake Tahoe, Utah and Whistler for a Snowboarder Magazine film called “Pepper.”

He plans to ride more this winter for his own film project and possibly attend the Olympics in a non-competitive capacity. 

The top slopestyle snowboarders going into PyeongChang are Canadians Mark McMorrisMax Parrot and Tyler Nicholson, Norwegians Marcus Kleveland and Stale Sandbech and American Red Gerard.

Gerard, 16, has known Kotsenburg for several years and once wore the Sochi gold medal.

“I hope [Gerard] comes home with a medal, even gold,” Kotsenburg said. “He’s got such awesome style and really respects the background of snowboarding. He’s been filming, too, and really respects that type of snowboarding. Which I respect a lot.”

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How to watch Olympic sports on NBC Sports this week

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Mikaela Shiffrin‘s pursuit of her 50th World Cup win highlights this week’s winter sports coverage on NBC Sports and Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.

Shiffrin, with 48 World Cup wins, is slated to race two of the four women’s World Cup events this week — a giant slalom and slalom in Courchevel, France, on Friday and Saturday. She is sitting out a downhill on Tuesday and a super-G on Wednesday in Val Gardena, Italy.

Only Lindsey Vonn (82), Annemarie Moser-Pröll (62) and Vreni Schneider (55) have more World Cup wins among women. Vonn is out until January after injuring a knee in a November training crash.

Shiffrin, a two-time Olympic champion, has five wins in the first nine events this season, including the last three in a row. With a slalom win Saturday, she will tie childhood idol Marlies Schild for the female record in the discipline with 35 victories.

U.S. Olympians are also in action among biathlon, freestyle skiing, Nordic combined and snowboarding World Cups.

ALPINE SKIING WORLD CUP — Austria, France, Italy

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Tuesday 6:30 a.m. Women’s Super-G Olympic Channel NBC Sports Gold
Wednesday 4 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 1) Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
5:30 a.m. Women’s Super-G Olympic Channel NBC Sports Gold
7 a.m. Men’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
12:30 p.m.* Men’s Giant Slalom Olympic Channel
Thursday 4 a.m. Men’s Slalom (Run 1) Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
7 a.m. Men’s Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel NBC Sports Gold
Friday 4:30 a.m. Women’s Giant Slalom (Run 1) Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. Women’s Giant Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel NBC Sports Gold
12 p.m.* Women’s Giant Slalom NBCSN
Saturday 4:30 a.m. Women’s Slalom (Run 1) Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
7:30 a.m. Women’s Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel NBC Sports Gold
9:45 a.m. Men’s Slalom (Run 1) Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
12:30 p.m. Men’s Slalom (Run 2) Olympic Channel NBC Sports Gold
2:30 p.m.* Women’s Slalom NBCSN
Sunday 2:30 p.m.* Women’s GS and Slalom NBC

*Delayed broadcast
All races stream live on NBC Sports Gold for “Snow Pass” subscribers and will have a replay of the event. Click here for more info.

BIATHLON WORLD CUP — Nove Mesto, Czech Republic

Day Time (ET) Event TV Live stream
Thursday 11:30 a.m. Men’s 10km Sprint Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
3 p.m.* Olympic Channel
Friday 11:30 a.m. Women’s 7.5km Sprint Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
1 p.m.* NBCSN
Saturday 9 a.m. Men’s 12.5.km Pursuit Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
11 a.m. Women’s 10km Pursuit Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
2 p.m.* Men’s 12.5km Pursuit Olympic Channel
3 p.m.* Women’s 10km Pursuit Olympic Channel
6:30 p.m.* Men’s 12.5km Pursuit NBCSN
Sunday 5:45 a.m. Men’s 15km Mass Start Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
8:30 a.m. Women’s 12.5km Mass Start Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
1 p.m.* Men’s 15km Mass Start Olympic Channel
2 p.m.* Women’s 12.5km Mass Start Olympic Channel

*Same-day delay
All races stream live on NBC Sports Gold for “Snow Pass” subscribers and will have a replay of the event. Click here for more info.

FREESTYLE SKIING WORLD CUP — China, Italy

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Friday 7:20 a.m. Ski Cross Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
10 p.m. Halfpipe Olympic Channel
Saturday 5:05 a.m. Ski Cross Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold

All events stream live on NBC Sports Gold for “Snow Pass” subscribers and will have a replay of the event. Click here for more info.

NORDIC COMBINED WORLD CUP — Ramsau, Austria

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Saturday 6 a.m. HS98 NBC Sports Gold
8:45 a.m. 10km NBC Sports Gold
Sunday 4:30 a.m. HS98 NBC Sports Gold
6:30 a.m. 10km NBC Sports Gold

All events stream live on NBC Sports Gold for “Snow Pass” subscribers and will have a replay of the event. Click here for more info.

SNOWBOARD WORLD CUP — China, Italy

Day Time (ET) Event TV Stream
Thursday 8:30 p.m. Halfpipe Olympic Channel
12 a.m. Slopestyle Olympic Channel
Friday 5:30 a.m. Snowboard Cross Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold
Saturday 5:30 a.m. Snowboard Cross Olympic Channel | NBC Sports Gold

All races stream live on NBC Sports Gold for “Snow Pass” subscribers and will have a replay of the event. Click here for more info.

South Korea Olympic star alleges concussion, sabotage at hands of coach

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Shim Suk-Hee, an Olympic short track speed skating champion, said that her now-banned, ex-coach gave her a concussion that caused her to faint during the Olympics, according to South Korean media.

Shim’s former coach, Cho Jae-Beom, received a life ban from the Korean Skating Union and in September was sentenced to 10 months in jail for assaulting athletes between 2011 and 2018, according to the International Skating Union.

“Before the PyeongChang Olympics, he kicked and punched me so hard that I thought I was going to die,” a tearful Shim testified Monday in Cho’s trial appealing the sentence, according to a Yonhap News Agency translation. “I had a concussion afterward, and I fainted and fell down during the Olympics because of that.”

Cho was first suspended in January, less than a month before the PyeongChang Winter Games, after allegations arose. Shim reportedly said Monday that, among years of abuse, Cho secretly changed her skate blades before World Cup races leading up to the Olympics to improve the chances of another South Korean skater.

“When I was in fourth grade, I suffered broken fingers after getting struck by an ice hockey stick,” Shim said of Cho, whose attorneys called her allegations “preposterous,” according to Yonhap. “Once I got into middle school, he became even more violent. He dragged me into confined spaces to beat me up mercilessly, and other athletes suffered ruptured eardrums and other injuries.

“I hope he will be punished so severely so he won’t be able to do these things again.”

Shim earned relay gold medals at the last two Olympics, plus individual silver and bronze medals in Sochi. She was the 2014 World overall champion and the overall silver and bronze medalist the last two years.

She struggled in individual events in PyeongChang. In her lone final, she was disqualified after crashing with countrywoman Choi Min-Jeong on the last lap. Shim has a best individual finish of fourth in two World Cup stops this season.

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