By: CAYLEN PERRY
Through all the twists and flips, the switch slides and the triple cork spins, Joss Christensen kept his inspiration close by his side.
On a beautiful springlike day in the mountains of Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, the 22-year-old from Park City, Utah, put heartbreak aside and pocketed gold, leading teammates Gus Kenworthy (silver) and Nick Goepper (bronze) to a masterful podium sweep in the men’s slopestyle skiing.
Many slopestyle aficionados will remember Thursday as the greatest day in the history of the sport as the All-America trio put an exclamation point on US dominance in the new X Games events. Christensen’s gold is the fourth of the Games for the Stars and Stripes. All have been won on the slopes.
More impressively, the US kids have won three of the four inaugural slopestyle events here (Sage Kotsenburg and Jamie Anderson in snowboarding) and earned a silver in the other (Devin Logan in skiing).
The 1-2-3 finish for the US was only its third sweep of medals in a Winter Games men’s event. The first two were in figure skating in 1956 (at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy) and in snowboard halfpipe in 2002 (at Salt Lake City).
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. That earned a competition-high 95.80 score, and he followed with a 93.80 effort.
Goepper, a two-time X Games winner and gold-medal favorite, dropped a 92.40 during his highly technical first finals run (and stood second), but as he attempted to top Christensen in the game of “whatever trick you can do I can do better,” he smacked his skis against the second rail feature and missed his grab over the second jump, ending his chances. If there was disappointment, it wasn’t apparent.
On this day, there was no doubt whose star shined the brightest. As Christensen took the gold, he did it with his mother, Debbie, watching in the crowd, with tears in her eyes.