American Sage Kotsenburg captured the first gold medal of the Sochi Olympics, winning the men’s slopestyle event three days after his teammate White — the most celebrated snowboarder in history — dropped out of the event.
Kotsenburg, 20, had a score of 93.50 points on the first of two runs today and nobody could match that mark. Staale Sandbech of Norway won silver with a score of 91.75 on his second run and Canada’s Mark McMorris took bronze with 88.75 on his second attempt at the hill.
“I have no idea what’s actually going on,” Kotsenburg told reporters. “This is the craziest thing that ever happened.”
The first women’s gold medal of the Games went to Norway’s Marit Bjoergen, 33, in the skiathlon, a cross-country skiing event that was swept by Scandinavians. Charlotte Kalla of Sweden won silver and Heidi Weng of Norway took the bronze medal in the race, which features 7.5 kilometers of classic cross-country skiing and another 7.5 kilometers of freestyle.
Medals also will be awarded today in men’s biathlon and speed skating, as well as women’s freestyle skiing.
Kotsenburg’s gold came in the first of 98 medal events to be contested in the Sochi Games that began last night with the high-tech glitz of the opening ceremony and run through Feb. 23.
Slopestyle is a new event at these games. The course included three rail features near the top and three jumps that got progressively bigger, so the most dramatic jumps came in front of spectators at the finish area.
White, a two-time defending champion in the halfpipe event, dropped out of the slopestyle to focus on the halfpipe.
Hilary Knight, Kelli Stack and Alex Carpenter scored goals as the U.S. women’s hockey team won 3-1 against Finland in a preliminary round game. Knight’s goal came just 53 seconds into the contest.
American Bode Miller, who tomorrow will try to become the oldest man to medal in an Olympic Alpine event, was fastest in this morning’s final training run before the downhill race. Miller also was quickest in the first training run two days ago, and was sixth yesterday.
The 36-year-old has a U.S.-record five Alpine skiing medals. Another in Sochi would make him the oldest man to stand on the Olympic podium in an Alpine event. Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway now holds that mark, having won the super-giant slalom at the 2006 Turin Games at the age of 34.
“If you are not totally focused this course can kill you,” Miller said today after the training run. “It is one of those courses where I don’t think you are safe going easy.”
Switzerland’s Dominique Gisin was fastest in today’s training run for the women’s downhill, which is set for Feb. 12. A trio of Americans, Jacqueline Wiles, Laurenne Ross and Stacey Cook, finished fourth, fifth and sixth. Their teammate, 2010 silver medalist Julia Mancuso, was eighth.