U.S.’s Anderson strikes gold in snowboard slopestyle

  • By Elliott Almond San Jose Mercury News
  • Sunday, February 9, 2014 9:51pm
  • SportsSports

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Joe Anderson was too nervous to watch as his daughter started a ride into Olympic history Sunday on a drab day in the Caucasus Mountains.

Halfway through Jamie Anderson’s gold-medal run, the South Lake Tahoe, Calif., man had to be persuaded to take a peek at a special moment.

“Dad, open your eyes,” his oldest daughter Corrie said.

Why not? Jamie Anderson, 23, opened the eyes of the sporting world to the new Olympic event of slopestyle snowboarding with a stylist performance in her second run to score 95.25 points out of 100 to help the United States sweep the discipline.

Enni Rukajarvi of Finland was second with 92.50 points, while Jenny Jones of Great Britain won the bronze medal with a score of 87.25 at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

Anderson’s victory followed Sage Kotsenburg’s gold medal run Saturday as the Americans dominated the newest extreme sport to get showcased on the Olympic stage.

“It was frickin’ mind blowing,” Anderson said. “What a day.”

It started with a private sisterly moment an hour before the 12-rider final. Anderson found older sister Joanie Anderson waiting for her near the bottom of a treacherous course filled with rails and jumps.

Joanie was the first of the eight Anderson kids to become an X Games star—in snowboardcross. The two clasped gloved hands and hugged over and over.

“I love you,” Joanie whispered as her sister headed to the top of the course for the first of the two-run competition.

“We’re so separated here,” Joanie Anderson said. “It’s so intense. We’re used to giving her hugs after every run.”

Welcome to the Olympics, where the four-time X Games champion entered as the favorite.

But the laid-back Anderson, who rides like a surfer, definitely felt the weight of her task. Before her winning run, she told herself to calm down. Then, she said, “I don’t know how it happened.”

Anyone watching did. Anderson flew off the rails and jumps as if on a Sunday cruise.

“I was really passionate and determined to come out here and do my best and do everything I can to be my strongest and most grounded, calm self, even with the hype of everything on the outside world,” she said. “It just feels out of control. I can’t even explain what I’m processing right now.”

Anderson downplays the significance of any competition, underscoring that NorCal vibe as one of three Olympians representing Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort.

One of eight children, Anderson received hand-me-down boards from her older sisters at age 9.

“She was always following them and trying to do what they did,” recalled Joe Anderson, a retired firefighter who came to the mountains after graduating from Marin Catholic High in Kentfield, Calif.

Joe and Lauren Anderson couldn’t afford to outfit their kids with the latest gear. But they encouraged them to explore the outdoors. The parents made a pact with the kids, who were homeschooled. Completing homework was a free pass to go play.

“It motivated Jamie,” the father said.

The Sierra terrain became Anderson’s playground. Especially shredding the fresh powder at Sierra-at-Tahoe. Anderson has carried a happy-go-lucky aura into her profession.

But at the start of a run, her breath slows and looks sober.

“Boom, she becomes part of the course,” U.S. slopestyle coach Bill Enos said. “She gets it in her body and her eyes.”

It happened again Sunday when the riders before her put down big scores. Anderson scored 80.75 on her first run, and the most dominant slopestyle rider in history had to perform on her final go. And that’s not easy, U.S. snowboard coach Mike Jankowski said.

“You can come in as the best athlete but what matters are those 45 seconds to cement the legacy,” he added. “That’s what she did.”

Karly Schnorr, of truckee, Calif., who finished sixth, agreed.

“She wanted it so much,” said the Tahoe transplant from Milford, Mich. “You can’t help but be nervous.”

As soon as Anderson flung into the air like a guided missile a calmness spread over her.

“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 said.

But all that pressure seemed to fall away as Anderson flew through the air under supreme control.

“That’s exactly how I want to look when I snowboard,” Schnorr said.

The rest of the field probably felt the same way

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