Sochi 2014: Sage Kotsenburg wins slopestyle gold

By Nick HopeBBC Sport in Sochi

United States snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg won the first-ever Olympic slopestyle gold medal with victory in Sochi.

Britain's Jamie Nicholls was in silver medal position after the first of two rounds but finished sixth, with team-mate Billy Morgan 10th.

Kotsenburg scored 93.50 points, with Norway's Staale Sandbech (91.75) second and Canada's Mark McMorris (88.75) third.

"I did the best I could do," said Nicholls, who scored 85.50. "Today is insane; the standard of riding was unreal. To be in that mix was incredible.

"I was in there [the medal positions] for a while but I just knew it wasn't going to be.

"My first run was the best run I have ever done in my life. I landed a backside triple 1440 and that is the first time I have ever landed that trick in a contest.

"I messed up at the start of my second run and that is how it goes. But I wanted to put down an even better run than I did the first time."

Nicholls' sixth place was the highest-ever finish for a British man in a snow-sport event at an Olympic Games.

His performance even drew praise from Wimbledon tennis champion Andy Murray, who tweeted: "Jamie Nicholls just smashed it!"external-link after his opening round score of 85.50 - which proved to be the snowboarder's highest.

Slopestyle is making its Olympic debut in Sochi and much of the build-up to the event had focused on the condition of the course after Norwegian medal prospect Torstein Horgmo was ruled out of the Games with a broken collarbone.

Two-time halfpipe champion Shaun White then withdrew from the slopestyle event after stating it was a "little intimidating".

Britain's Morgan top-scored in the morning's semi-finals with 90.75 to join Nicholls, who secured his place through a top-four finish during Thursday's qualification round.

Morgan could not repeat that form in the final though, falling in each of the two rounds and achieving a best total of 39.75.

However, the 24-year-old from Southampton was pleased just to be taking part after suffering a serious knee injury in September and was competing in Sochi without a cruciate knee ligament in his right leg.

"My second run in the semi-final was the best run of my life," he said. "I just went too big in the final but it doesn't matter if you're fourth or 12th - if you're not on the podium it doesn't count."

He added: "I came through unscathed and am so proud to have been out there, but I'm in this sport for the long haul and hopefully I can come back in four years' time and finish a bit higher."

The majority of the British freestyle skiing and snowboarding team grew up training on either dry slopes or indoor centres in the UK.

After two top-10 finishes for GB athletes, Nicholls is now calling for more resources to be put into the sport.

"If we have the facilities in the UK then maybe we'll see some Brits on the podium in the next one," said the 20-year-old snowboarder.

Team GB snowboarders Jenny Jones, a three-time X Games gold medallist, and Aimee Fuller will compete in the women's semi-finals on Sunday.