KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Jamie Anderson is known for her calm, spiritual nature.
But the stakes were high Sunday — the South Lake Tahoe, Calif., snowboarder was the favorite in the Olympic premiere of slopestyle and for months had been facing expectations of a gold-medal performance.
The night before, she did yoga, listened to meditation music, burned sage and candles, wrote in her journal — anything to calm her nerves.
The pressure was even higher as she stood in fifth place going into her final run. She is known to hug trees before her runs, but there weren’t even trees at the top of the course here at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. She wore mantra beads given to her by her yoga instructor in Breckenridge, and she had a medicine bundle in her backpack.
Whatever she did, it seemed to give her what she needed.
Anderson, 23, won the gold medal, coming through big in her clean and stylish second run, giving the Americans a sweep of snowboard slopestyle in these games. Park City, Utah’s Sage Kotsenburg won Saturday’s men’s event.
“There was so much anticipation leading up to this event, and to be able to calm your mind and really believe and have the trust and faith that you really are capable of doing what you want to do — especially after watching Sage take the gold yesterday — I was extra inspired to come out here and do my best,” Anderson said with an American flag draped over her shoulders.
Finland’s Enni Rukajarvi won silver, while Jenny Jones of Great Britain got the bronze.
Anderson’s tricks though weren’t the biggest of the day — Sina Candrian, of Switzerland, landed a frontside 1080 and Torah Bright, of Australia, did a cab 900 — but her style impressed the judges as much as Kotsenburg’s had the day before.
Her cab 720 with a tail grab, switch backside 540 with an indy grab, and frontside 720 with a mute grab seemed effortless.
“Jamie just has the smoothest style out of everyone,” said Karly Shorr, 19, of Truckee, Calif., who finished sixth. “She just lands, and she’s so strong and she’s so, so smooth. That’s how I want to snowboard.”
Shorr said U.S. terrain parks are breeding grounds for slopestyle riders, and that was evident in the American sweep.
“We have the best parks in the world, and we’re so lucky to get to ride in Breckenridge, and I live in Tahoe, and Utah, too, where Sage is from,” Shorr said. “We’re just so lucky to be in the mountains and live out there.”
Anderson said the support she’s had from her family and the Tahoe community has allowed her to reach the top step on the biggest stage in the world. Her mom, dad, grandmother and six of her seven siblings were in attendance.
“Tahoe love!” she said. “That community is amazing. There’s been so much love and support from Day 1, since I was 9 years old. To have my family out here in Russia feels absolutely amazing.”
Anderson will now be one of the top faces of snowboarding as slopestyle is broadcast to America in its Olympic debut.
“She’s one of the best women’s snowboarders ever and her record proves that, and luckily she was able to prove that today when it really counted,” said U.S. slopestyle coach Mike Jankowski.