KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – The debut of skiing slopestyle went exactly as the United States hoped, and thanks to its dominance in action sports, Team USA is slowly climbing the medal table.
An incredible first run thrust 22-year-old Joss Christensen into a lead he wouldn't relinquish, holding off fellow Americans Gus Kenworthy (silver) and Nick Goepper (bronze) as the United States swept the event's medals.
The medal sweep was just the third in U.S. history at the Winter Games. The United States also swept men's figure skating at the Cortina d' Ampezzo Games in 1956 and the men's snowboard halfpipe at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.
The 1-2-3 finish pushed the U.S. medal count to 12, temporarily tying it with Norway for the most at the Sochi Games.
"I am shocked," Christensen said. "I am stoked to be up here with my friends. America, we did it."
Christensen, born and raised in the shadow of mountains in Park City, Utah, showcased incredible technical expertise and a massive triple-cork jump to beat a strong field at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park with a score of 95.8. His second run of 93.8 also was better than the score from the any of the two runs of the other 11 skiers.
Christensen's greatest competition appeared like it would come from the 19-year-old Goepper, the favorite after dominating the freeskiing scene for the past year and coming from an unlikely place for skiing proficiency.
Day after day, lap after lap, Goepper would ascend the 300-foot-tall ski slope near Lawrenceburg, Ind., and ride nonstop for hours, always in search of the perfect run.
He thought he landed it with a 92.4 until Chirstensen trumped him in grand style.
"I feel amazing," Goepper said. "I think today was the best display of skiing we have ever seen in our sport, so I am so happy."
Kenworthy passed Goepper with a 93.6 in his second run. A day earlier, Kenworthy found four stray dogs he hopes to adopt and bring home.
"I am so stoked about an American 1-2-3," Kenworthy said. "Nick is always the guy to kind of beat in a contest – he is so consistent and so incredible – and Joss is really killing it right now."
Christensen's first run held up through the dozen skiers who followed him, and his final run was a victory lap that would lead him to the top of the podium.