In what might be the most exciting performance yet for American fans of these Olympics, Team USA swept the podium at men's ski slopestyle early this morning, with a late addition to the slopestyle team, Park City native Joss Christensen, taking the gold with a standout run capped by a switch right triple cork 1260 safety. Gus Kenworthy won the silver, with Nick Goepper - this year's X Games gold medalist and something of a favorite among an extremely competitive field - sealing the American sweep with the bronze.
In discussing Christensen's gold medal win - only his second win at a major event - there is one word that comes to mind: momentum. Despite having been a strong competitor for several seasons, Joss only won his first major contest back in January at Park City's Grand Prix, and even then hadn't won enough points to lock up a position on the American slopestyle team alongside Goepper, Kenworthy, and today's 9th-place finisher, Bobby Brown. Joss's only chance was to win the coaches' discretionary spot, and to do that he had to beat out slopestyle legend and unofficial team captain Tom Wallisch, X Games silver medalist McRae Williams, and Alex Schlopy. But according to Freeskier Magazine, Joss's January performance convinced the coaching staff that the Park City native was about to go on a serious roll, and awarded him the final spot on the team.
That call was validated this week when Christensen landed his first triple cork. The trick had been considered key to gold in the run-up to the Sochi and doubly so when the Olympic slopestyle course was revealed to have the biggest jumps of any course on the comp circuit, leaning early odds towards American Nick Goepper, who won the X Games with a flawless triple cork mute grab, and Sweden's Henrik Harlaut, who had won X Games Big Air two years in a row with his incomparable nosebutter triple cork 1620. But Joss's momentum pulled through again, helping him land an enormous switch right triple cork 1260 on the final jump of the finals, securing not only his second major contest win, but the first gold medal to ever be awarded for men's ski slopestyle in the Olympics.
More than any one person or country, however, what may have been the biggest win in the men's finals was park skiing as a whole. The halfpipe conditions for the men's and women's snowboard finals left many athletes supremely bummed that they couldn't showcase their best runs to a captive public, knocking snowboarding down a peg after rider after rider caught an edge in the flat bottom. But the runs in the men's slope finals were as good or better than any other major comp, giving the field piece of mind that skiing as a whole was shown at its best on the slope course.
Also, we're sure that Joss will be breaking his dry spell in the Olympic hook-up competition soon, and will for sure be utilizing one of the 100,000 condoms supposedly circulating around the athlete village, which we hope won't clog the plumbing like they did at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Want more Sochi Olympic coverage? Check out:
-Slopestyle celeb pop quiz: Bobby Brown vs. Bobby Brown
-Women's ski slopestyle finals recap
-Sochi Olympic backcountry conditions advisory
-Men's snowboard slopestyle finals recap
-Women's snowboard slopestyle finals recap