When Sage Kotsenburg began his quest to win gold in the brand-new Olympic event "slopestyle snowboard," he had less than 14,000 followers on Twitter.
There was a reason. Beyond X-Games die-hard fans, very few sports fans knew who Sage Kotsenburg was.
But Kotsenburg had a plan, or really, he didn’t (more on this in a minute). What he DID have was "Spoice."
The 20-year-old Kotsenberg is from Park City, Utah, and began snowboarding when he was five.
His casual approach to the sport he loves is what should have tipped everyone off that he has the potential to be great. In our 10-minute conversation Sunday, Sage made me believe the best part of the trip was that he was able to snowboard “some incredible pow this weekend, bro."
The gold medal was pretty gnarly, too.
Despite the consensus that the Americans had no chance to medal in slopestyle after Shaun White pulled out of event, and regardless if others felt as if the Rosa Khutor Xtreme Park was too dangerous (White called the course, "intimidating"), Kotsenburg was having the time of his life in Sochi.
He was so excited to just be in the Olympics, after qualifying for the finals, he tweeted:
Whoa how random is this I made finals at the Olympics!!!
— sage kotsenburg (@sagekotsenburg) February 8, 2014
As he waited for his second and final turn in the slopestyle finals Saturday, he had a thought – and immediately called his brother.
Sage: “I think I’m going to try a 1620 on this run.”
Brother: "Have you ever even practiced that?"
Sage: "No. Why?"
You can see this kid has spoice, and you likely don't even know what "spoice" means.
Needless to say, Kotsenberg landed what is now being referred to as the "1620 Japan Air," a trick so ridiculous in the midst of a sport that prides itself on being reckless, it gave Sage the gold medal.
A few hours later, NBC Sports sent out the tweet that has taken the sports world by storm.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 9, 2014
The world has never been the same.
So there I stood with Sage Kotsenburg on a podium in the middle of the Olympic Park in Sochi. We had about 10 minutes to kill before we would do an interview live on NBC 5 in the morning (there’s a 10-hour time difference here).
I asked him if he was getting tired of the 50+ interviews he’d already done.
"No way, man! This is gnarly!"
I asked him if Shaun White was kind of like Tiger Woods, in that he almost plays by his own rules with organizers and fans.
"I don’t watch much golf, dude."
And then, I did it. I asked the man wearing the first gold medal given out in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games what, "Spoice," meant.
"It's just our word this year. It's, you know, Spoice!"
He had said it in such a believable way that I acted like I understood. But, you know what? I really liked the guy. His passion – and spoice – was real.
And America apparently does, too.
Sage Kotsenburg has more than tripled his Twitter followers in two days. Oh yeah. And he has a gold medal too.