Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

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Snowboarder Jamie Anderson Wins Gold for USA

Anderson's victory comes on the heels of American Sage Kotsenburg's slopestyle gold

By Emily Feldman
|  Monday, Feb 10, 2014  |  Updated 7:44 AM EDT
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Jamie Anderson gave the United States a gold-medal sweep in the first Olympic slopestyle snowboarding competition on Sunday, while Jenny Jones took bronze to win Britain's first medal in any snow sport

AP

Jamie Anderson gave the United States a gold-medal sweep in the first Olympic slopestyle snowboarding competition on Sunday, while Jenny Jones took bronze to win Britain's first medal in any snow sport

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Jamie Anderson gave the U.S. a gold medal sweep in the Olympics' first-ever slopestyle snowboarding competition.  

The 23-year-old from South Lake Tahoe, Calif. became the first woman to win Olympic gold in the event, just a day after her teammate came from behind for a surprise victory at the men's competition.

Anderson, a heavy favorite going into the finals, shot to the top of the leaderboard after her second run Sunday at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. 

Finland's Eni Rukajarvi took silver, while Jenny Jones won bronze--the first medal of the Games for Great Britain. 

Karly Shorr, the only other American to advance to the women's slopestyle finals, finished in sixth place.

It was a nail-biting contest for Anderson, who appeared to be on the brink of dropping from medal contention for a good part of the second run.

Her first run started strong, but she botched the landing on the last of three jumps, winding up with a beatable score of 80.75. That score was topped early in the second round, putting all the pressure on her final run of the day. She would have to do better than several snowboarders for any medal, and beat Rukajarvi's huge 92.5 for the gold.

She came through, though, with a trio of big air moves and flawless landings that earned her 95.25 points for the win.

Sage Kotsenburg, who won gold in the men's competition on Saturday, tweeted that he "jumped out of my chair when @Jme_Anderson landed that run!!"

As Anderson crossed the finish line she threw her arms open in a sign of victory.

"I was really just trying to stay calm and kind of reserve my energy," she later said. "It was a lot of stress up there and even though it's just another competition, the stage and the outreach that this event connects to is out of control."

Anderson looked at ease as she made history. While some of her competitors struggled to find enough air time to provide the series of spins and grabs necessary to impress the judges, Anderson floated through the gray conditions.

"Jamie's an awesome competitor," Shorr, her teammate, said. "She does whatever she has to win. She never cracks under pressure. She uses it. She lands."

Britain's medalist, Jones, also made history at the event. The 33-year-old former maid at a ski resort gave Britain its first-ever medal for a sport that's played on snow.

"I know we don't have any mountains," Jones said. "But I think there's a growing number of snowboarders from England."

Still, it's Anderson who is the closest thing to a household name for a sport still trying to emerge from the shadow of the halfpipe.

There were doubts about how she and her competitors would fare on the challenging course, which took out several snowboarders in the first week of training. 

On one of the first days at the park, Anderson told The Associated Press that the course was "a little intense" and that she was "having a questionable time getting used to it."

Sunday she watched as competitor after competitor struggled to navigate the series of rails and jumps that Finland snowboarder Peetu Piiroinen feared was too big for women.

At times, it looked like it.

Sarka Pancochova of the Czech Republic cracked her helmet during a frightening crash on her second trip down the mountain. She lay motionless on the snow for over a minute before recovering to stand up and make it to the bottom.

Moments after Pancochova's scare, Rukajarvi bumped Jones out of the top spot with a 92.50, her highest of the competition.

And for a few minutes, it looked like it may be good enough. Olympic halfpipe gold medalist Torah Bright - competing in the first of three snowboarding events in Sochi - couldn't catch her. Neither could Switzerland's Elena Koenz or Shorr.

Ultimately, it came down to Anderson, just the way she prefers it.

She came into the games as a heavy favorite but found herself up against it after a so-so first run. Taking a deep breath and trying to drink in the moment, she delivered with a combination of athleticism and grace no one can match.

Anderson made the "safe" sign after landing her final jump and flipped her right mitten in the air before exchanging hugs with Rukajarvi, Jones and Switzerland's Sina Candrian. It was a moment symbolic of the camaraderie enjoyed by a group of snowboarders who consider themselves friends just traveling the globe trying to put on a show.

"I think most of us have been thinking about this for a few years," Anderson said. "To just have that moment come so quick and really knowing this is your moment, you just want to shine and do your best and show the world what a fun sport snowboarding is."

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