Sage Kotsenburg

Ten memorable Winter Olympic medal moments from 2010s

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NBCSports.com looks back at the 2010s this week. Here are 10 Winter Olympic medal moments that defined the decade …

Vancouver 2010: Lindsey Vonn’s downhill title, finish-area scream
Everything was lining up for the U.S.’ biggest ski star going into what was being billed as the “Vonncouver Olympics.” Lindsey Vonn was the two-time reigning World Cup overall champion, the reigning world championships gold medalist in the downhill and super-G and winner of five of the six World Cup downhills that season. Then came a setback, a bruised shin in slalom training 10 days before the Games that caused “excruciating” pain when putting on a ski boot. She lucked out as weather pushed the start of competition back three days. Vonn got her downhill gold, becoming the first U.S. woman to win the event. “I’ve given up everything for this,” she said on NBC.

Vancouver 2010: Shaun White lands Double McTwist 1260 for repeat gold
Having already clinched a repeat Olympic title, White could have used his second run in the final as a victory lap and simply slid down Cypress Mountain. Instead, he reached into his bag of tricks for what he called the Tomahawk, named after a 30-ounce T-bone steak he had recently devoured. White threw down the Double McTwist 1260 at the last Olympics he would be known as the Flying Tomato with flowing red locks.

Vancouver 2010: Apolo Ohno becomes most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian
With three medals at his third Olympics, Ohno broke Bonnie Blair‘s U.S. record for career Winter Olympic medals. The short track speed skater finished with eight total, tacking on a silver and two bronze medals in Vancouver, not far from his Seattle roots. An overweight Ohno had failed to make the 1998 Olympic team when favored at age 15. In 2002, he earned gold after a South Korean disqualification, making him an enemy of the world’s top short track nation. In 2006, he crossed the 500m finish line first in what he called the “perfect race.” After winning “Dancing with the Stars,” Ohno rededicated for one last Olympic push and skated competitively for the last time in Vancouver.

Vancouver 2010: Sidney Crosby’s golden goal
The very last gold medal of the Vancouver Games was the most vital for the host nation. In a U.S.-Canada men’s hockey final, American Zach Parise tied the game with 25 seconds left. Then in overtime, Crosby beat Ryan Miller to set off celebrations nationwide, where Canadians were filling bars and streets to watch the Sunday afternoon contest.

Sochi 2014: Sage Kotsenburg wins slopestyle’s Olympic debut
The first gold medalist of the Sochi Games was truly a surprise. Kotsenburg had gone nine years between slopestyle wins when he won the last U.S. Olympic qualifier that January. But “Second-Run Sage” unleashed a stylish first run in the Olympic final, 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 became a media hit, eating a bacon gold medal given to him by Conan O’Brien and listening to President Obama call him “sick and chill” at the White House.

Sochi 2014: Meryl Davis, Charlie White win first U.S. ice dance gold
When Davis and White began skating together in 1997 at ages 9 and 10, they barely spoke to each other the first two years because she was so shy. But from 2009 on, they captured six straight national titles, two world titles and an Olympic medal of every color. None bigger than gold in Sochi in a discipline where the U.S. used to be so weak that reporters took meal breaks at the national championships rather than watch the performances. It would be their final competition.

Sochi 2014: Mikaela Shiffrin becomes youngest slalom gold medalist
Despite a mid-second-run bobble, Shiffrin delivered on pre-Games hype by winning the slalom at age 18. What followed hours later would prove noteworthy for the rest of the decade: In Shiffrin’s late-night press conference, she blurted out that she dreamed of winning five gold medals in 2018. While that did not come to fruition, Shiffrin has gone on to win World Cup races in every discipline, plus Olympic or world titles in giant slalom and super-G. She will likely break the career World Cup wins record early in the next decade.

PyeongChang 2018: Chloe Kim’s back-to-back 1080s for gold
The 17-year-old phenom wasn’t thinking so much about flips and twists before her halfpipe runs, but ice cream and churros, as she tweeted during the competition. Before the celebratory desserts, Kim landed her signature combination — back-to-back 1080s, which no other woman has done. That was plenty enough for a rider who posted the two top scores in qualifying and the two top scores in the final. Then David Chang made her some churro ice cream sandwiches.

PyeongChang 2018: U.S. women’s hockey team edges Canada in shootout
Didn’t seem anything could top the Sochi Olympic final, where Canada tied it in the final minute (after a U.S. empty-net attempt clanged off the post) and won in overtime. Then came the shootout in South Korea. Twins Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson starred, three months after it looked like they could be cut from the team. The latter scored the winner on a deke she named, “Oops, I did it again,” after the Britney Spears song. The U.S. earned its first hockey gold medals since the 1998 team in the Olympic debut of women’s hockey.

PyeongChang 2018: Marit Bjoergen ends career with 15 medals, most decorated Winter Olympian
The last medal awarded at an Olympics this decade went to arguably the greatest Olympian of the decade. The Norwegian cross-country skier (and mother) broke countryman Ole Einar Bjoerndalen‘s career Winter Olympic medals record in PyeongChang, capped by taking the grueling 30km freestyle by 109 seconds, the largest margin for any Olympic cross-country race in 38 years. It would be Bjoergen’s last career race.

Honorable Mention: Vancouver 2010: U.S. four-man bobsled, Yuna Kim, Evan Lysacek. Sochi 2014: Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, Russian team figure skating, Noelle Pikus-Pace. PyeongChang 2018: U.S. men’s curling. Ester LedeckaJessie Diggins/Kikkan Randall.

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BEST OF 2010s: Summer Olympians | Winter Olympians | Teams
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Sage Kotsenburg will not defend Olympic slopestyle title

Sage Kotsenburg
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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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Sage Kotsenburg still ‘on the fence’ about 2018 Olympics

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The Olympics are in 14 months, and Sage Kotsenburg remains undecided about defending his slopestyle title.

“I’m definitely on the fence,” Kotsenburg said, according to a Salt Lake Tribune article published Friday, “but right now, I’m definitely more focused on filming.”

Kotsenburg has traveled the world since his surprise Sochi gold, taking his snowboard to film movies. He even declined an invitation to the 2014 Academy Awards to ride in Switzerland, according to the report.

It appears Kotsenburg has been non-committal about the Pyeongchang Winter Games since at least June, when a Snowboarder Magazine article quoted him saying he was going “back and forth” but leaning toward trying to make the U.S. team.

Kotsenburg, 23, struggled at the Winter X Games the last two seasons after his Sochi breakout. He finished fifth and 10th in slopestyle and seventh in big air, similar to his X Games results before his surprise Olympic title.

Kotsenburg is also coming off suffering a concussion at Fenway Park training for a big air event in February.

The first of five U.S. Olympic qualifying events for snowboard slopestyle is in February at Mammoth Mountain, Calif. The other four are expected to be contested next season.

If Olympic team selection is the same as 2014, Kotsenburg could skip the first qualifier and still make the team if he performs well next year. The U.S. had four men’s slopestyle snowboarders on its team for Sochi, when the event made its Olympic debut.

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