Four years ago at the Sochi Games, American snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg earned a shocking gold medal in the slopestyle competition. He followed that up with what President Barack Obama told him was the “chillest” interview of the Olympics. Last June, though, Kotsenburg announced that he was done competing and would instead pursue his dream of making snowboard films. No more X Games, no more Olympics and no more medals. Kotsenburg says he has no regrets and is excited about the PyeongChang Games.
The men’s slopestyle final is scheduled for tonight (8 p.m. Eastern time on NBCSN). The Washington Post caught up with Kotsenburg by phone during a recent video shoot in Italy to get his thoughts on this year’s event and life after “retirement.”
Q: Will you be watching?
A: I think it’s at  a.m. my time here in Italy, but I’ve got to root on my boys! And girls too!
Q: Who are the contenders for the men?
A: Three people that I would look for are an American kid, Red Gerard. He’s absolutely crushing it right now. This course, when I saw it, I immediately thought Red can really do well here. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the podium, if not up in the top five.
And then [Canadian] Mark McMorris, who got bronze last time around. He came back from a really, really bad injury, so I’d like to see him do good, too. We’ve been good friends for a long time. He’s crushing it, too. He’s doing a really, really, really good job right now. I’d like to see him up there.
I’ll give a prediction for gold: It’s going to be Marcus Kleveland. He’s from Norway. He has pretty much anything you want in a slopestyle course and more. So if he puts down his run, he’ll probably win or [earn] silver, I’d guess.
Q: What struck you about the course?
A: The rails. It was almost like a Sochi repeat, but the rails are way bigger and gnarlier here in PyeongChang. I think a lot of people are going to have a tough time navigating the race through it — finding the line that’s hard, creative, and putting technical tricks into it. Those three people that I listed kind of do that the best.
Those guys will be players. You never know, those rogue people could come in and just upset everything, though.
Q: There’s a new snowboarding event for PyeongChang too, right?
A: Big air is new, and that’s probably going to be the craziest event at the Olympics. A lot of spins and flips. I think the general viewer will be really pleased. Definitely look out for those three guys I said before. I’d look for a guy named Max Parrot [of Canada], as well. He just won big air at the X Games.
Q: Where’s your gold medal?
A: My gold medal is at my parents’ house. They love it. They can relish in the moment, for sure.
Q: Aside from your gold medal, what was your favorite moment from Sochi?
A: Unfortunately, for me, I left two days after slopestyle, which was the first event. I didn’t get to watch anything live. But I’d say my favorite moment after was watching my best friend from growing up, Joss Christensen, win [gold in slopestyle skiing] a few days after. I never cried after I won. I was just in so much shock. When he won, I just straight burst into tears.
Q: Do the Olympics make you miss competition?
A: It was really fun up until when I was [in my] early 20s. I was 20 when I won the gold in Sochi. That was the best times of my life. [But] I don’t really miss it at all. I’m having a little too much fun riding back country now.
I want to be a better snowboarder. I’ve been getting into big mountain stuff now, which has been unreal to me. That’s kind of been my goal for my entire life — to try to leave my stamp on competing and move into this other realm and leave my stamp on back-country snowboarding.
Q: How did people react to your decision to leave the sport?
A: Everyone in snowboarding definitely kind of gets it. They kind of almost expected it inside of snowboarding. What’s kind of hard is explaining it to people outside of snowboarding.
A lot of people say “congratulations on your retirement.” I say whoaaaa, no. I’m retired from competition. What I do now is back-country film trips, advertisements and content videos.
Q: How’s that been going?
A: It’s going good. Last year was my first full year not doing any competition. There was a lot to learn about snow packs and avalanches. Where to go in the world, reading snow forecasts and reading weather maps. It’s really fun. It’s a whole new realm of it for me. It kind of just brings back the fun of snowboarding for me in a really awesome way.
This interview has been edited.