In LA dreams are made and dreams are crushed. And under the bright spotlight of Hollywood, this years X Games athletes brought with them their best. For the first time in a long time, the veterans of the podium had to dig deeper to maintain their position. Competition was tighter, bigger air was thrown, and egos played a roll in success, but more so in defeat.
The men of MotoX Freestyle began the epic weekend that was to be with a high jump display never seen before at these heights. Calling his shot the week before on Facebook, Matt Buyten rode his horses up 37 feet into the sky leaping over the bar and slamming his bike into the ground for a back to back win in MotoX Step Up. Beating his main rival on the Step Up Ronnie Renner, the boys pushed the record books to a new level at 37 feet. “The last five years I’ve had some great battles with Renner,” Buyten said. “He’s definitely my biggest competitor.”
Move over track high jump stars you have nothing on this high jump. “It’s everything,” Buyten said. “This is everything. Everything is on the line right here. This is the X Games, there’s no backing down. You can’t explain the pressure. The bar just keeps climbing and climbing and the pressure keeps building.” The best part was the Buyten was going old school with the bike, opting against a fuel injected bike and going with a carburetor injected. His style may not be as conventional as the rest but his back to back wins are all he needs to put his doubters where they belong. No one can question the world record holder.
Staples Center only stood quiet for a short moment while the arena was cleared for the crowd favorite and fan driven best whip contest. Could Todd Potter continue his dominance? The best whip is such a showcase of popularity and it drives the voting. Jarryd McNeil of Australia has been pushing his whips this year and gave the incumbent Potter the best challenge. And when the fan results came in, Twitch Stenberg took the gold. If the judges had a legit vote, McNeil would have crushed the field along with Thomas Pages. The fans having a vote is a fun policy to keep them engaged but this has got to stop. This is called the Best Whip competition. Not the Best Whip beauty contest. Let the fans vote for fun but let the professional judges determine a deserving winner.
The fireworks were just starting as the MotoX Best Trick finally had new tricks. No matter the trick the enjoyment of watching is still there but the last few years the tricks have become so routine and copies of other tricks. Travis Pastrana at least brought a new trick last year that turned into an nightmare and he was back to redeem himself. The Pastranathon of 5 different events in 5 different sports was about to begin. The crowd was amped and the riders delivered big tricks and wicked crashes. Crashing is a part of the sport and it happened. Here is my issue, after Travis’ first run and fall, his ego got to big and he rode right around and threw the trick again. He crashed once again a broke his ankle. He should of got to the top of the ramp cleared his mind and then would’ve been set for his second run. One ego decision and he was done for the weekend. Good thing Jacko Strong was there. He inked his name into the X Games rookie books with his front flip that landed him the gold medal. “I was going to be pumped whether I took first or last place, it was just my goal to do a front flip at X Games,” Strong said. “I think everyone saw how deep I had to dig. I had to hang on tight for that landing for sure.” Strong led the way for an Australian sweep of the Moto X Best Trick podium with Cameron Sinclair taking X Games silver with a sweetly executed knack-knack double backflip. The bronze medal went to Josh Sheehan who also landed a double backflip. These Aussies showed the world that the flying kangaroos from down under have the best of the best tricks to steal the show.
Sitting in fourth place, Australia’s Steve McCann took the ramp for his final run knowing he would need a big score to jump into medal contention. And he did just that, scoring a 91.66 with a double front double whip. “It couldn’t have been better for TV,” McCann said. “Coming down to the last run, I just knew I had to stick with my game plan and I kept telling myself I could do it over and over in my head. Finally I had a run that worked out. I’m definitely bruised up, sore and I’m happy.” McCann took first from his fellow countryman, rookie Vince Byron who scored a 90.66 on his second run, but broke his handle bars and was unable to make his final two runs.
Day 1 of X Games 17 from LA was epic. Dreams were fulfilled and game plans were crushed. This is sports, egos play a role and sometimes they work in your favor and sometimes they stop you dead in your tracks.