SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 08: Sage Kotsenburg of the United States celebrates winning gold after his second run during the Snowboard Men's Slopestyle Final during day 1 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
The San Diego family of Olympic snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg is beaming this weekend.
After rising high above expectations in the Sochi slopestyle event, Kotsenburg, 20, took home the U.S.’s first gold medal Saturday for his performance.
Kotsenburg’s uncle, aunt and cousin live in San Diego, and they say they were overjoyed.
“Couldn't have happened to a better, more humble, just the nicest, nicest person,” said Kotsenburg’s cousin Bobby Whitney.
Whitney told NBC 7 that Kotsenburg shared his passion for the sport at an early age, helping to turn his whole family into a snowboard family. He convinced Whitney himself to switch from skiing to snowboarding.
Remembering their early days on the slopes together, Whitney said it was exciting to see Utah-native Kotsenburg rise to the top of the world.
“I thought he was going to do well. I really wanted him to get into the finals,” said Whitney.
But Kotsenburg went farther than that. He laid it all on the line during the Olympic finals by performing what he calls the “Holy Crail,” a trick he pulled for the first time Saturday.
Whitney didn’t miss a minute of his cousin’s victory, staying up all night to see it happen live online at Sochi time.
“You're just kind of biting your nails like, is someone going to knock him off, knock him off that first place? And nobody did,” said Whitney. “I couldn't be prouder of him.”
In a tweet, Kotsenburg wrote "WOW!! I just won the Olympics! Brining back the first Gold to the USA! Love seeing all the support from everyone YOU RULE."
The Whitney family fully expects Kotsenburg will make it into the 2018 Winter Games, possibly alongside his sister – another accomplished Kotsenburg snowboarder.