KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – When the Olympics decided to include snowboarding 16 years ago, the expectation was that it would only help American medal efforts. After two days of the Sochi Games, Team USA is proving that prophecy ever true.
Jamie Anderson, the 23-year-old from California, won gold in the inaugural women's slopestyle event at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on Sunday afternoon, posting a score of 95.25 to give the U.S. its third medal of the games – and second in slopestyle.
"Most of us have been thinking about this for a few years," Anderson said. "And to just have that moment come so quick, knowing this is really your moment to shine and be your best and show the world what a fun sport snowboarding is."
Less than 24 hours after Sage Kotsenburg stunned the men's slopestyle field with a gold medal, Anderson, the favorite in the women's, pushed Team USA up the medal table with an array of spins off the course's three jumps. She was in fifth place before delivering a dazzling final run that included a backside 720 with a mute grab. It was enough to impress the judges, who rewarded her with a 14½-point improvement from her first run.
“Last night, I was so nervous, I couldn’t even eat," Anderson said. "I was just trying to calm down. I put on some meditation music, burned some sage, had the candles going. Just tried to do a little bit of yoga. Yoga always comes through for me.”
U.S. coach Mike Jankowski reminded Anderson to smile as she looked down from the top of the mountain. She did before her final run.
"It was a lot of stress up there," he said. "And even though it's just another competition, with the stage and outreach this event connects to across the whole world is out of control."
Finland's Enni Rukajarvi won silver with a score of 92.50 and Jenny Jones took the bronze for Britain's first medal in a snow sport. American Karly Shorr finished sixth. Anderson celebrated the victory by dancing and flashing thumbs up to the photographers.
"At the end of the day, this is snowboarding," Anderson said. "We all started with the fun it brings and how much joy it is to be out here on the mountains with your friends. It’s like playing, you know? We’re pretty much snowboarding on a playground up there.”
Anderson, one of eight children home-schooled in California, has dominated the women's slopestyle scene since arriving as a 16-year-old. While women's slopestyle does not feature the massive spins and flips of its men's counterpart, Anderson's style helped propel to the top of the sport – and now into Olympics history.
Winter Olympics Memorable Moments on Yahoo Sports: