Big first runs make snowboarder Kotsenburg an Olympian

Big first runs make snowboarder Kotsenburg an Olympian

Credit: Nathan Bilow / USA TODAY Sports

Big first runs make snowboarder Kotsenburg an Olympian

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by RACHEL AXON / USA TODAY Sports

NWCN.com

Posted on January 24, 2014 at 7:52 AM

ASPEN, Colo. – If Sage Kotsenburg keeps this up, he might have to drop his nickname by the Olympics. "Second-run Sage" as the slopestyle snowboarder is sometimes called is headed to Sochi thanks to some impressive first runs that allowed him to clinch a spot on the U.S. team.

As the Park City, Utah, native prepared for the X Games –usually the biggest event of the year but this season a final warm-up for the Games – he recalled a weekend of qualifying that even he still can't believe.

Kotsenburg, 20, was a favorite to make the U.S. team. But it still took two second-place finishes and a win in the final three events last week at Mammoth Mountain, Calif., to lock up a spot.

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"Mammoth was pretty heavy business," said Kotsenburg. "I ended up getting two seconds there, then a bunch of people were doing some crazy Albert Einstein mathematic equations and told me that I had to get first the next day. I was going into the other finals day like, 'Wow, I haven't won an event for like nine years. I'm always in second place.' "

With Shaun White not competing in the final event – he'd already locked up his slopestyle spot – Kotsenburg put down a progressive first run to win the competition. In all three contests, "Second-run Sage" put down his best run on his first trip down the course.

Kotsenburg's laidback personality and mellow demeanor helped him handle the stress of the five qualifying events. With another big event ahead of him, the three-time X Games medalist will stick with what worked with him in qualifying.

"I just took all the care in the world away. I just went out there and snowboarded," he said. "When I'm having fun and just not worrying, that's when I do my best.

"I just went up there, snowboarded, had a bunch of fun and I ended up taking the win, so now I'm going to Mr. Sochi."

Follow Rachel Axon on Twitter at @RachelAxon

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