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Friendly rivalry

Sage Kotsenburg of the United States claimed the first gold medal of the Sochi Winter Olympics yesterday when he won the men's snowboard slopestyle event at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

Kotsenburg (near right) only qualified for the final in yesterday morning's second chance semi-finals and, following Thursday's heats, had criticised the judges' scoring after he failed to earn a direct route into the final.

But his first run scored 93.50 and, although some of his rivals put in high scores on their second runs, the 20-year-old held on for victory.

"I have no idea what's actually going on. This is the craziest thing that ever happened," said Kotsenburg.

Norway's Staale Sandbech (centre, 91.75) claimed silver with the penultimate run of the event while Mark McMorris (right) of Canada, another competitor who had complained about scoring following an unsuccessful heat, took bronze with 88.75.

Sandbech said standing on the podium with two such close friends made the experience all the more special.

"The boys killed it. I've got two of my best friends on the podium," he said, before paying tribute to the winner.

"Snowboarding has no kind of limits. You can do bigger tricks and you can do more spins and more flips.

"You can do different grabs and you can do more grabs.

"Sage obviously did some super tech creative grabs and a 1620 - he had such a sick rail run. I look up to Sage and Mark. We're just three best friends pretty much."

- AFP.