Enjoy this coverage of X Games 17 from Kristen Beat-on site and in style!
Coming straight from the Heart of Los Angeles, X Games 17 literally set new heights for the action sports industry. The first freestyle motocross discipline was the ‘Step Up’ event. In this final-only format, each of the six invited riders line up 30 feet from a near vertical wall of dirt in an attempt to jump over a horizontal bar positioned between two vertical bars at a height determined at the competition director’s discretion, above the lip of the jump. Similar to what could be traditionally referenced as the ‘high jump’. If a rider knocks the bar to the ground, that rider has one additional chance to clear the bar at that height or else is eliminated. This gives the rider two attempts. After each round, the bar is raised in increments determined by the competition director and the entire process is repeated until one winner is determined.
A huge amount of preparation goes into the development of bikes and technology for this event. Riders will often test their bikes and suspension for weeks prior to this event not only to win but also to ensure their own safety on the bike. Renner stated in interview, “I’ll be riding the 350 KTM instead of the big 450 these other guys are on, it’s a little bit lighter and I’m hoping it will get me over the bar that much easier.”
An icon in FMX, Tommy Clowers, made his return to Step Up and came back with a collected manner, innate to only a veteran of his ability. Clowers held the previous record which was set at 35 feet.
One rider who repeatedly exampled the struggle to overcome new heights was Todd Potter. Potter who is not unfamiliar with X-Games, struggled throughout the competition. “Step Up just isn’t my thing and my bike just doesn’t have as much power as theirs does, that’s all it comes down to.” After a few rough landings and second attempts Potter was out at 34 feet 6 inches.
One rider who truly proved he has what it takes to bring home the gold was once again Matt Buyten Buyten easily cleared over the bar at 37 feet, setting a World Record and capturing his fourth X Games gold – second in a row – in Moto X Step Up. Buyten and second place finisher Ronnie Renner were neck-and-neck throughout the competition, but Renner was unable to clear 37 feet, finishing with a top height of 36 feet, 5 inches. After the event Buyten commented, “I couldn’t be happier. I am so thankful to be leaving with another win, and this is really the best feeling.”
Here are the final results from Step Up
1. Matt Buyten 37ft?2. Ronnie Renner 36.5ft?3. Brian Deegan 35.5 ft?3. Myles Richmond 35.5ft?5. Tommy Clowers 34.50ft?6. Todd Potter 33ft
The second event of the evening was ‘Best Whip’. This freestyle discipline is actually not judged. This is voted on by the spectating fans via text message. In Moto X Best Whip, riders showcase their ability to throw a 350-pound machine sideways and bring it back with style and land solid (whip it!) in a 6-minute timed format. Three-time-defending gold medalist Todd Potter was debatably the front-runner for this competition.
As the whips got bigger two riders from outside the US not only turned their bikes with style but also turned a few heads while they were at it. Thomas Pages from France and Jarryd McNeil of Australia both proved to be fan favorites and capable of throwing down some mad whips! When the sand ran out only one man could take home the Gold and that was Stenberg.
Despite winning another gold to add to his already impressive resume, Stenberg didn’t mend any bridges along the way. By commenting, “I got rid of a few bad sponsors and got some new rad ones that were willing to step up to the plate, I’m up here winning.” Stenberg was referring to his most recent business decision to leave long time sponsor Metal Mulisha and sign with a new program. Burn to say the least. In speaking with Stenberg after the event, Twitch stated, “I’m just pumped to be back out here having fun again. I’m happy and the rest of this weekend is gonna be like this just all gold.”
Here are the results for best whip by fan voting percentages
1. Jeremy Stenberg 27%?2. Todd Potter 24%?3. Jarryd McNeil 22%?4. Josh Hansen 11%?5. Thomas Pages 9%?6. Nate Adams 7%
Finally the event that fans look forward to most- Best Trick. With top runners like Blake Bilko Williams and Kyle Loza out of the running there was no telling who would be able to take home the coveted XG17 Medal. Certain athletes had promoted their talent via internet exploding on youtube, others had came in after years of trial and error- however they came in for some it was certainly not how they left.
In this final-only format, riders take two runs each and are judged on the overall difficulty and execution of their trick. Riders attempt a single, one-shot maneuver to earn points from the judges and icon status from the fans. The greater score of the two jumps is their final score. Despite the subjectivity of evaluating what is genuinely most difficult to execute and land, there is no doubt that what was seen at Best trick was nothing short of miraculously risky.
The evening started out with Adam Jones who hadn’t been a confirmed athlete until only two weeks prior to XG17. Jones threw down a safe double grab backflip to land him a secure 86.33 and solid run.
Following Jones was a moment that will go down in X Games history and the record books. Australia’s Jackson Strong landed the first ever frontflip during Moto X Best Trick. Many athletes had previously attempted this, to only leave the venue by way of ambulance. Jackson Strong proved he is the real deal by landing the front flip with stability and balance on the bike and welcomed a stadium standing ovation. Strong received a 95.66 securing his Gold Medal and place in the history books. Strong commented, “This really is unbelievable, you grow up dreamin of being able to do this and I’ve finally gotten to take home X Games Gold.
Taking home the silver was Cam Sinclair. Sinclair was a gold medalist in 2010 and hoped to defend his medal again in 2011. “I’ve been really working hard and want to see it pay off tonight.” Sinclair nailed a Nak Nak Double Backflip scoring a 94.66 only one point shy of the Gold Medal but still enough to walk away safe with a silver.
Travis Pastrana once again attempted the infamous ‘Rodeo 720’ although on his second attempt injured himself and left the staples center in an ambulance. The rodeo 720 was under rotated and would have put Pastrana in contention for Gold. Pastrana was taken off on a stretcher and speculatively has broken his right foot and ankle. It HAS been confirmed that Pastrana’s planned NASCAR nationwide debut on Saturday will be put on hold. He is also out of the X Games for Rally Car.
Finally earning bronze was Josh Sheehan closing the Aussie podium sweep with a solid 93.33 double backflip. A rider who also comes from abroad, Taka Higashino closed in on the fourth position with an innovative and precisely demonstrated one handed indian air seat grab. Taka told us, “I’m not happy I would have wanted Gold, but its okay I’m still riding tomorrow and I’m happy its X Games always fun and after tomorrow time to go out and party.”
Here are the results from Moto X Best Trick
1. Jacko Strong?2. Cam Sinclair?3. Josh Sheehan?4. Taka Higashino?5. Todd Potter?6. Adam Jones?7. Travis Pastrana?8. Mark Monea
After a night of record breaking performances and triumphs X Games 17 has once again proved to be a showcase of the best and most talented action sports has to offer. Check back tomorrow for coverage from the Freestyle competition.