Sage Kotsenburg ‘Stoked’ at Sochi


SOCHI, Russia—Sage Kotsenburg, the surprise slopestyle Olympic champion, brought some casual and informal color to the daily International Olympic Committee press briefing on Monday, confusing some by using the word “stoked” in his description of his attitude.

Appearing in a navy-blue USA sweater and capping his wavy blond hair with a black beanie hat, Kotsenburg discussed the significance in the inclusion of his event, slopestyle snowboarding, in the Olympic program for the first time, and addressed concerns that the legitimacy of appearing in the Olympics might hurt his counter-culture credibility.

“We’re all stoked to be in the Olympics. We’re all different individual people,” Kotsenburg said in response to a reporter’s question about whether winning an Olympic gold medal made him feel conflicted about his roots with slopestyle’s “antiestablishment” fan base.

His answer didn’t quite resonate with everyone in attendance at the briefing, which serves as something of a town-hall meeting between Olympic officials and their constituents of international journalists. Translation headsets are available in eight languages, but his choice of language confused at least one reporter, who asked a volunteer as the meeting disbanded, “what was that word?”

“Stoked,” the official replied.

Kotsenburg used the word several times during the meeting to describe his overall mood since his victory on Saturday, where he became the first overall gold medalist of the games and the first gold medalist in slopestyle. He also went on to say that life in the village is “awesome,” and that Jenny Jones’s bronze in slopestyle, the first snow sport medal for Great Britain, is “pretty sick.” He speaks with a typical west-coast snowboarder lilt, and said while he’s competing he’s “suuuuper focused” on each jump as it happens.

Kotsenburg, who hails from Park City, UT, and said witnessing the American sweep of the men’s halfpipe podium at his hometown Olympics in 2002 was a defining moment for him, is quickly becoming an icon of these Sochi games. Throngs of media asked Kotsenburg to pose for photos, which he did before the Sochi 2014 backdrop, giving a double-thumbs up.

But if Kotsenburg were to lose any street cred for winning gold, it should have happened a while ago. He’s been backed by big corporate sponsor NikeNKE +1.20%for three years.

When asked if he had been congratulated for his gold by Nike CEO Mark Parker of co-founder Phil Knight, Kotsenburg said he hadn’t as of yet.

“But I haven’t had my phone on me, so maybe they’ve been hitting me up,” he said.

A Nike spokesman declined to comment on whether the company had any future plans for Kotsenburg.

As the meeting drew to a close, members of the IOC panel politely thanked journalists for coming, and Kotsenburg leaned into his mike, exclaiming, “See yaaaaa!”


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