Christensen, Kenworthy and Goepper sweep Sochi slopestyle skiing for USA


Americans Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper swept the podium in the Winter Olympic debut of men’s slopestyle skiing on Thursday.

The podium sweep was just the third for the US in Winter Olympic history, joining men’s figure skating in 1956 and men’s halfpipe snowboarding in 2002.

All four US gold medals in Sochi have come at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, and Thursday’s haul came 15 hours after .

Another bumper crowd at Extreme Park were treated to a thrilling display of acrobatics. Christensen led the pack after qualifying and his 95.80 on his opening run of the final, which he capped with a stunning switch triple-corked 1440, assured him of the title even before his second attempt.

Christensen’s three off-axis jumps at the end of his first qualifying run totaled 10 full spins in the span of 15 seconds all coming while he skied over the ramp backward. His first run in the finals won the gold, and his second would have been good enough to win silver.

Reflecting the have-a-go spirit of the sport, though, the 22-year-old nailed another spectacular flurry of flips, spins and tricks for a score of 93.80, which would have been enough for gold in itself.

“I am so stoked about an American one-two-three,” said Kenworthy.

Teenager Goepper, who won the last two X-Games titles, added: “I think it’s going to give the U.S. a lot more confidence and it’s going to get a lot of people really excited.”

Goepper and Kenworthy raised Christensen on their shoulders following what amounted to a victory lap during Christensen’s last run down the mountain. The good friends wore flags as capes in the giddy aftermath of their victory in the sport’s Olympic debut.

Christensen was the last slopestyle skier named to the Olympic team, getting the nod over, among others, former world champion Tom Wallisch. The 22-year-old from Park City, Utah, was easily the best on a sun-splashed day where the weather was so warm that teammate Bobby Brown who finished ninth wore only a T-shirt in the finals.

“I can’t believe we made it,” Christensen said. “It’s been a long journey.”

A long and sometimes painful journey: Christensen lost his father J.D. in August and got the news while training in New Zealand. The last six months have been a mix of grieving and renewed focus for a skier whose lengthy list of injuries includes a pair of broken wrists and microfracture surgery in his knee.

“I hope I made my father proud,” he said. “Through all the injuries I’ve had, he’s always supported me and never said stop. I hope he’s looking down and smiling. Did it for him.”

Christensen’s first run in the finals produced a 95.80, giving the rest of the 12-man field a target to beat. None could top the kid with the floppy blonde hair and easy smile that seems to embody a sport full of tricks and fun.

Kenworthy, from Telluride, Colorado, . Now they’ll have some company a silver medal. He raised his arms over his head after his second finals run and busted out laughing when his score of 93.60 was revealed.

While Christensen learned his tricks on the best facilities in the world in his home town of Park City, Utah, Britain’s James Woods had to make do with a dry slope in the unglamorous city of Sheffield.

Woods made it through to the final in third place but, hampered by a hip injury he sustained in a crash last week, was unable to produce the sort of triple-cork trick that might have delivered Britain their second Olympic medal on the snow.

“I can do triples. I’ve got them,” said . “I got slammed in practice and, to be honest, on any other regular occasion, there is no way I would be anywhere near my boots and my skis at the moment. But I am incredibly proud to be here in such an immense final. It’s the Olympics and Joss is the nicest guy on the face of the earth, so I couldn’t be happier for anyone else.”