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(KRASNODAR KRAI, RUSSIA - JANUARY 8: Sage Kotsenburg, of Park City, poses for a portrait after winning in the Men's Slopestyle Finals at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games Saturday February 8, 2014. Kotsenburg won the gold medal with a score of 93.50. (Photo by Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune) )
Olympics: The weird, janky sickness of freestyle
First Published Feb 08 2014 11:25 am • Last Updated Feb 25 2014 04:47 pm

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia • Those gnarly dude guys on snowboards continue to hijack the Olympics. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact date when this hijacking began. But every four years at the Winter Games, the gnarly dudes happen.

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"Random is kind of my thing," said America’s newest Olympic hero, a 20-year-old named Sage Kotsenburg, who won the first gold medal of the Sochi Games here Saturdayafternoon.

Just don’t ask me to describe how Kotsenburg did it, exactly. But I can affirm that his performance in the Olympics’ first-ever slopestyle competition was indeed spectacularly random.

It was also sick. And not janky at all. Kotsenburg said he "tweaked my grabs" successfully.

Got that? You’d better get stoked about learning the lingo. Because these acrobatic events on snow are not going away. Instead, they are growing like a mogul fungus, assuming that moguls can indeed grow fungus. If so, the competitors probably would smoke some.


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Sorry! Stereotyping there! But the extreme athletes do have a certain . . . um, crunchy mojo about them. That is why their hijacking of the more traditional Olympic events — figure skating, downhill skiing, hockey — is so noticeable. Snowboarding was introduced to the Winter Olympics in 1992. And every four years, the discipline has added more events — and even sprouted into a separate extreme segent known as freestyle skiing. The reason is twofold.

One, the Winter Olympics features far fewer sports than Summer Games, so Winter organizers are always looking for attractive additions to the schedule.

And two, the aerial stunts perpetrated by the likes of Kotsenberg — as well as Shaun White, the world’s most famous gnarly dude snowboarder — is unbeatable eye candy. Television cameras worship the extreme events. Directors and producers weep in joy at the slow motion replays of all the mid-air spinning and tumbling (and grabbing.)

This, in turn, explains why snowboarders and free skiers often develop into the Games’ biggest rock stars. Kotsenburg earned his status Saturday. He promised to "keep things weird" and then delivering on that promise, big time.

Last week, there was disappointment in USA circles when White withdraw from the new slopestyle event, which is sort of a downhill obstacle course featuring structures and rails early on, then a series of snow ramps to send boarders sailing into space for four or five seconds worth of aerial mayhem. White, who is nursing injuries, chose to concentrate on the upcoming halfpipe competition instead.

But no worries, bro! Into the American breach stepped Kotsenburg, a mellow blonde longhair who grew up snowboarding in Utah and might be an even more free spirit than White.

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