It’s safe to say that snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg had a rad time in Sochi. As a member of the US slopestyle team, Kotsenburg pulled a wicked 1620 on his final run to win gold. It was America’s for gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics, which is a big deal on its own. But Sage rode into the history books by becoming the first American ever to win a gold medal in Russia.
Days after returning from Sochi, the reality of his accomplishments was still sinking in. It probably didn’t help that he was on a whirlwind media tour talking about his epic gold medal run. But even after reliving his big moment again and again and again, Sage was still stoked about his medal and his place in the record books. SI Kids spoke with Sage recently about his medal run, how he prepared for it, and whether or not he’s the next Shaun White.
Let's talk about your finals run. What's going through head right before you launch yourself down the course?
Um, I just try keeping it mellow. I listen to a lot of music right before I go, just to get, like, stoked and to get in the right mindset. And then going down, I just take it feature by feature, just think of, you know, downrail's up first, just do a trick on that. Once I land, I think of the next feature. I try not getting too far ahead and just taking a mellower approach. Just have fun with the course. You're meant to just kind of be weird on the course and creative. So I just try just riding the mountain inside the course, you know? You got to ride down the hill and not really just ride the features. You got to really just think about how you're going into it and how you're going to land going into the next feature.
What music do you listen to before a run?
I listen to a lot of rap, but usually it's a little bit before my run. And then right before my run, I have a playlist that's got Metallica, it's got some Slayer, it's got all that kind of metal music. I definitely enjoy just getting stoked listening to that stuff. And then a little bit before that I usually have some hip-hop in my ears. And when I wake up I always listen to, like, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, just kind of mellower stuff, and then it kind of gets heavier and heavier as the day goes on. (laughs)
At the end of your run, you come across the line and you seem a little in disbelief. What are you thinking when you end? Like, I nailed it?
Yeah. I mean, the 1620 I had never tried. I thought about it a little bit, and then I just dropped in. So going from that mindset of just, like, "Hey, I'm going to try this trick and have fun with it," and then just landing it, it was the rug of my life. It just seemed like such a crazy turn of events. And then I got the score and it was a 93.5 and that was a big score, for sure, so I was just, like, "Wow!" I was in such disbelief.
Yeah, let's talk about that 1620. What makes you decide, You know what? It's my finals run at Sochi, gold medal round, I'm going to go for it right now?
That's just how I snowboard, you know? I just get weird and don't really make a plan that much. I know what I kind of want to do before the day, and then as the day goes on I just kind of switch it up. I switched a couple of my rails up, and then I switched the last jump up, too, with the 1620. Why not, you know? It's just something I thought of that day after I got into the finals. I called my brother and I talked to my coach and I was just, like, "Yeah, I might go 1620." And they were both, like, "Yeah, you got this! Just go have fun with it. You're at the Olympic finals. We love you. Just go have fun with it, man. And if you land that it's going to be crazy." I was, like, "Cool man! Alright, here goes nothing." And, yeah, just went in with a positive mindset and ended up working out, I guess.
That's really cool that it was such a positive and encouraging experience.
Oh yeah, definitely man. There was so much negativity around the course at first, with all the media blowing it up. It really wasn't that bad. The course was good. It needed a couple minor changes at first. And I promised myself when I got to Sochi, I was just going to soak up the whole Olympic vibe and really just have fun with it because that's when I do the best snowboarding, when I'm not getting in a negative mindset. I'm just snowboarding. And at the end of the day, that's what we're doing. We're just shredding. I'm there with our friends, so I just took that mindset into the whole entire Olympics. And it definitely ended up benefiting me.
What was Sochi like, I guess, when you get there and then what's it like for you after you win a gold medal?
It changes a lot, for sure. I was on the plane with a bunch of the mogul skiers and the bobsled guys and the slopestyle ski guys. So we all came in together, and we were just tripping out on seeing the mountains. The mountains are like Alaska-type mountains there, it's insane. So, when we saw that stuff, we were just freaking out and we just went and enjoyed it all. We rode powder the first two days we were there, and just rode around the mountain a ton. And then, yeah, the whole gold medal stuff happened and it really just changed from going from, you know, riding the mountain, cruising, and having a bunch of fun just hanging out to just media craziness. I left three days after I competed. I'm in New York now. I'm in a skyscraper, just hanging out. It's so weird, man! It's definitely so unreal.
You were the first US athlete to win a gold medal in this Olympics, but I read that you're the first US athlete to win a gold medal in Russia, period. That's a huge deal.
Yeah, that's the one that hasn't really hit me yet. That's just something for the record books. It's something that I respect so much right now. It's just so crazy to think about. I think, I mean, in 20 years it'll still be the same. No one can really take that away. But it's so crazy to think about it, you know, the first American to win a gold on Russian soil in Winter Olympics history. I can't even fathom that, really. When you put that in the same sentence, it just doesn't seem right.
Do you have an idea of what you're going to do with your gold medal? Like a place you're going to keep it or are you going to wear it to bed for the next year?
(laughs) Definitely not going to wear it to bed. I'm just going to keep it at my mom and dad's house 'cause I have all my other trophies and medals there, and without them I wouldn't even be snowboarding. They gave me so much support, so I think they enjoy looking at the medals more than I do. So I'm just going to give it to them and give them the bib. I brought a ticket home, too, someone gave me a slopestyle ticket, so I'm just going to let them hang all those up and enjoy it.
Before the Olympics, you were a pretty low-key kind of guy. Now that you've won a gold medal I'm sure that's going to change. But do you think you can go back to a sort of pre-gold medal life once the Olympics are all over? Or are you going to be, like, the new Shaun White?
(laughs) I'd rather not be the new Shaun White, that's for sure. I just want to go back to snowboarding. I love all this crazy media stuff, it's fun, but I belong on a snowboard. That's just where I feel at home. So I can't wait to go home and see all my friends and family and go take laps with them and ride some powder and just get back to Sage, you know?
Photos: REUTERS/Mike Blake, Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated