The debut of snowboarding slopestyle at the Winter Olympics turned out to be an all-American affair.
A day after Sage Kotsenburg shocked the world with his gold in the men's competition, his compatriot, Jamie Anderson, rode her way to victory for the women, giving Team USA an event sweep.
Like Kotsenburg, Anderson is laid-back, fun-loving and very popular among her peers. Unlike Kotsenburg, her victory wasn't a surprise—she was the favorite to top the podium.
In fact, the 23-year-old Anderson has been the face of her sport for years, and with four golds from the X Games and 20 top-two finishes in her last 24 events, this was very much her event to lose.
Even though she's young, her Olympic debut has been a long time coming.
Anderson has loved the Games since she was a kid, though according to a Q&A from NBCOlympics.com, it was gymnastics that first drew her in. She got into snowboarding after receiving a hand-me-down board from her older sister and never thought she would turn pro. But once she did, the Olympic dream loomed large again.
Anderson tried to qualify for the team in 2010 in halfpipe, but she didn't make it. Rachel Axon of USA Today reports that she went to the Vancouver Olympics anyway, just as a spectator, and had the time of her life. This year, with her signature event slopestyle in the competition for the first time, it was her time to shine.
After a dominating season on the circuit, she finally was able to book her trip to Sochi—this time as a competitor and gold-medal favorite.
Still, the self-proclaimed hippie who has a passion for saving the environment has trouble reconciling the sports she loves with the bad things the Olympics stand for. She talked about this struggle with Devon O'Neil of ESPN X Games prior to the Games:
I've always been so excited to go to the Olympics, and it's a little sad that now it's finally happening and there's so much negative stuff going on in Russia between the terrorist attacks, the gay law and all the craziness. I want to compete in the Olympics, but I also want them to respect the environment, the athletes, everything -- and not make it all about McDonald's.
But despite her reservations, Anderson was able to shut out all of the negativity and noise surrounding the Games and simply focus on what she does best: effortlessly powerful and creative snowboarding.
Staying focused and zen is something that's a high priority for Anderson, who is famous for hugging a tree and meditating before each competition. She keeps centered through yoga, reflection and positive thinking. And when all else fails, the fifth-oldest child of eight siblings calls her mother for some perspective.
She talked to Natalie Langmann of Huck magazine about this practice back in 2012:
If it’s not fun, I’m not doing it. If I ever do find myself complaining, I make a little gratitude list and call my mom – who runs her own lawn care business in South Lake Tahoe. She’s a huge inspiration and her high spirit puts me in a good place. Sometimes I do get a little stressed and overwhelmed, so I tell myself to stay in a joyful place.
Headed into the second run of the slopestyle final, Anderson was out of medal contention, so she knew she needed to pull out something spectacular. When she landed two 720s in a row to score a 95.25, there was nothing but joy emitting from her.
With that, she leapt to her usual spot atop the leaderboard above silver medalist Enni Rukajarvi from Finland and bronze medalist Jenny Jones from Great Britain. Once every rider had completed her run, she knew she had successfully captured the gold.
To celebrate, Anderson hugged her coach and her competitors and then went to find her family. Along with her parents, six of her seven siblings made the trip to Sochi, per Axon.
After basking in the glow for a few minutes, she made her way over to talk to the media.
Anderson has been a formidable force in the snowboarding community since she made the X Games podium when she was only 15, but now that she's had her Olympic moment, her celebrity status is about to skyrocket.
In the history books, Jamie Anderson will forever be the first female Olympic snowboarding slopestyle champion. It might not have been a surprise, but that doesn't make the victory any less sweet.
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