Starting the Party: Sandbech and McMorris Medal in Olympic Debut of Slopestyle in Sochi

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Well, that’s over. Slopestyle has been unveiled to the masses. It’s come out from under its X Games-nurtured rock and spread its awesomeness over everything else that will happen in Sochi, Russia. And what a debut! It had excitement, it had drama, it had triple corks, it had suspense and it had drama (did we already say that?). In the end, it had a trio of snowboarders on the podium that exude exactly what the sport is all about: having fun and going big. Norwegian Stale Sandbech ended up with the silver medal, while Canada’s Mark McMorris, who landed two triple corks in his run, settled for Bronze. USA’s Sage Kotsenburg won Gold.

Coming into Day 1 of the Winter Olympics, the chatter had already been circulating around the Slopestyle course for a week. It was too big, too “dangerous.” Spills had knocked medal hopefuls out of the event. The athletes were acclimating to the double-elimination-type format. But by the time the semis and finals rolled around less than 24 hours after the Opening Ceremonies, the field looked ready to do exactly what Slopestyle is known to do: put on a show.

The talk of the event was the triple, as it has been for the past two years. Max Parrot had two of them in his X Games-winning run two weeks ago, but the top qualifier in Sochi couldn’t piece together a run enough to impress the judges. He ended up finishing 5th. Though it was the talk of the event, it wasn’t necessarily the table-turner as it’s usually been at, well, every other snowboard contest. Kotsenburg didn’t have anything greater than a double cork, but his array of grabs and unique approach to the course won over the judges. Sandbech was consistent throughout the event, coming into finals as the second top qualifier and landing a buttery-smooth second run in the final.

For McMorris, the favorite coming into Sochi, the two days of competition were a mental minefield. After receiving shockingly lower-than-expected scores in qualifiers (with a run that included a triple cork), the theme continued in the semis and finals. Despite nearly-flawless runs highlighted by some of the biggest maneuvers of the event, his scores continued to come in several points lower than other competitors. He never posted a score in the 90s. He squeaked through the semis in third, fell on his first finals run, and then landed two triple corks for a score of 88.75 and had to sit and wait to see if he would be bumped off the podium.

“Unexplainable,” McMorris told TransworldSNOW. “The amount of ups and downs, it’s actually funny at this point. It’s over. I’m so glad. To ride the way you want to ride is the most important and the rest is up to the judges. I’m happy with everything, the outcome. A lot of people think it should have been different but I’m going to still smile and represent Canada the best I can.”

FINAL MEN’S SNOWBOARD SLOPESTYLE RESULTS
Gold: Sage Kotsenburg (USA) – 93.50
Silver: Stale Sandbech (NOR) – 91.75
Bronze: Mark McMorris (CAN) – 88.75