U.S. snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg won the first gold medal awarded at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games with a crowd-wowing, never-before-seen combination of rotations and grabs in the Olympic debut of slopestyle snowboarding.
At 4 a.m. in a small town on the other side of the world, a 17-year-old Michigan high school junior danced and screamed as she watched her favorite snowboarder clinch the gold medal with a move she helped name: the Holy Crail. (Click here to watch his gold-medal-winning run.)
Ally Berry came up with the name two months ago in Edwardsburg, Mich., a town of roughly 1,000 people near the Indiana border. She was listening to the Jay-Z song “Holy Grail,” when Kotsenburg, 20, asked his Facebook fans to name his new trick. Berry, who is a competitive snowboarder, loves the trick known as the “crail grab,” so she decided to join the two names and suggested Holy Crail.
Kotsenburg pulled off the Holy Crail, which involved 4 ½ rotations while grabbing the board behind his back, in his winning first run in the finals. Afterward he said it was the first time he performed that trick in competition.
"No one believed me that I came up with the name when this all started,” Berry said in a telephone interview with TeamUSA.org. “But then it started blowing up everywhere, and everyone was then like, ‘You helped Sage make Olympic history?’ I was like, ‘No I didn’t. I just suggested the name. He’s the one who went out there and won the thing."
Berry didn’t think her suggestion went anywhere at first, but Kotsenburg loved it because it was a “next level crail,” so the named seemed perfect.
"I had no idea people would go this crazy over the Holy Crail,” Kotsenburg told TeamUSA.org Wednesday from New York City, where he is already on a media tour. “It’s really fun to do and I hear people are out trying it now. I look forward to seeing people do it in parks and stuff.”
Though Kotsenburg’s win was a surprise to some — Canadians Max Parrot and bronze medalist Mark McMorris were the favorites — Berry said she never doubted Kotsenburg. When the judges rewarded Kotsenburg’s Holy Crail run with a score of 93.50 points, Berry, a high school junior, said she was surprised she didn’t wake her parents up with her screaming.
By winning the event, Kotsenburg, who was born in Idaho but grew up in Park City, Utah, became the first U.S. athlete to win the Winter Games’ first gold medal since Andrea Mead Lawrence won the giant slalom in 1952.
"Winning the gold literally just flipped my world upside down,” Kotsenburg said. “It’s been a whirlwind of events, but I’ve never been to New York before so it’s pretty cool meeting all the people you see on TV.”
After winning the gold medal, Kotsenburg mentioned Berry when talking about the origins of the Holy Crail.
"I blasted out on Facebook and Instagram because I didn’t have a name for the trick I invented, and this girl, Ally Berry, came up with the name because it’s a crail grab,” Kotsenburg said in his news conference after winning the gold medal. “Holy Grail to Holy Crail, I liked it.”
Now, Berry’s friends have been suggesting to Kotsenburg via Twitter that he owes Berry a date. Berry’s response: “That would make my year, better yet, my lifetime!”
When asked if he would take her out on a date, Kotsenburg couldn’t help but laugh.
"I guess I have to find a way to take her out; maybe I can take her out on a snowboarding date or something,” he said.
But in the meantime, Kotsenburg said he’s just enjoying the moment.
"When I called my parents, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to the medal ceremony at the Olympics to get a gold medal,'" he said. “They were freaking out so it was pretty special.
"Then standing on top of the podium at the award ceremony, the anthem playing and the flag going up, I literally couldn’t believe it. I can’t even describe the feeling but it’s something I’ve never felt before.”
For Berry’s part, even though she insists that she’s “just a girl who suggested a name, nothing special,” she admitted that she loves the attention the Holy Crail is receiving. She has received several autograph requests from friends, she said.
Just 12 hours after Kotsenburg’s Olympic win, Berry herself competed in a slopestyle competition. As a personal tribute to Kostenburg, she made it a point to perform the crail grab.
Someday, however, she hopes to reach the Holy Crail herself.
That would be amazing,” Berry said. “But I’ve got some work I need to do first.”
Nick Forrester is a New York City-based writer. He has written for TeamUSA.org since 2012 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.