X Games 17 Braapp Up Report
The spectacle of action sports that is X has ended for the year and it’s time to take a look back at some of the highs and lows. For reporting of the moto events and results- check out the stories from Kristen Beat just below this story. I’ll also be going over the results of my picks for the X Games this year and some injury updates too.
Pastranathon was the buzz that X Games hung their hat on this year, and it made less of a splash than anyone expected due to early injury from Travis Pastrana. TP ended up breaking the Tib/Fib in his right leg and broke an undisclosed bone in the same foot while attempting the 720 in Best Trick. Consequently he sat out Freestyle and his NASCAR Nationwide Series Debut (more on that in another story) but his rally crew was able to outfit his Boost Mobile Subaru WRX with a hand control for the throttle, which is not allowed in NASCAR without lots of behind the scenes work. He had to battle the pain of bumping the soft-casted leg, operating the throttle with his hand, while shifting and using the cut-brake with his other hand. It did not turn out to well and in car camera shots during his final hard crash allowed us to see something we rarely see from the wild one- visible pain in his face.
So the moto started with Step Up which had Matt Buyten taking gold again at 37 feet over Ronnie Renner and Myles Richmond. I picked those perfectly and it was the only category I got completely right! When the bar hit 37- Renner tried but failed giving Buyten two attempts to clear for the win. He did so with authority on the first try and looked as if he was ready to take it to 39 if needed. Thirty-seven feet is the highest mark ever and just shows that if the sport is to continue, some refinements will be needed on the lander as it looked like it really hurt when slamming to the earth, even on two wheels.
Best Whip was next and was as usual, fan judged by text. My personal view on this type of scoring is that it is terrible and does not give the true winner the gold. Maybe allow half fan vote and half action-sport celebrity vote and it would be fairer. Either way- it is done and although I picked two of the top three, only one-Todd Potter finished where I predicted in second. Finishing third was my choice for first on paper and at the event- Jarryd McNeil from Australia. As pointed out to me by Beau Bamburg (fourth in whip last year and not invited this year- I know, stupid) whom I sat and watched the event live on TV from Indianapolis, Jarryd’s whips are not the biggest bike wise, but he uses lots of body movement to make it look more flashy. I’ll agree with that, but overall his whips looked best to me. Jeremy “Twitch” Stenberg took home the gold medal according to America’s finest Hot Topic shoppers.
I got Best Trick as wrong as Travis got the 720 this weekend. My picks from last Thursday were Robbie Maddison, Mark Monea and TP in that order. Maddo pulled out that day (along with Loza) due to injury, while Monea and Pastrana both crashed out in the first round. The judging was solid for this round I thought. Josh Sheehan ripped a perfect Double Back Flip for bronze, Cam Sinclair added a Nac Nac to his Double to pull silver and Jackson Strong landed the first ever successful Front Flip in X Games history to win gold. Coincidentally-all the medal finishers are Aussies. I think I heard the word “Australian” nearly as much as I heard “Metal Mulisha” this weekend.
Friday night brought us Freestyle, the first ever moto discipline in X Games, and it did not disappoint either as judging was pretty fair. Even though there was a lot of moaning and groaning about the course from avid followers prior to the event, I predicted that it would bring out the best in the technical riders and I was 100% right. My picks for winners were 66% off though! I had Nate Adams, Travis Pastrana and Andre Villa in the top three and only one finished there. Nate pulled Gold in FMX with a run that included the cleanest 360’s I have ever seen from the Glendale, AZ native. Adam Jones was able to return some silver to the Silver State of Nevada with a run that showed just how hard he worked for it and Dany Torres from Spain proved that not all of them are Conquistadores taking gold home as he worked to a bronze.
The last trick filled category was Speed and Style which was populated with all FMX riders this year and I think it really helped the format. My predictions were not far off and could have had all three included (if in the wrong order) were it not for the big get off by Jeremy “Twitch” Stenberg. Twitch was off and running when he clicked neutral on the ramp and went feet first into the back side of the dirt lander. The crash broke his left tibia and right heel bone and will keep him sidelined for quite a while. Winning the bronze medal round was Ronnie “Kung Fu” Faisst who just recovered from a rodded femur broken in March and a chest contusion from the week before. The battle for gold came down to Mike Mason and Nate Adams (both in my picks 3rd and 2nd respectively) with Mason fastest on the course but being edged out by Nates’ technical ability on the trick side of the equation. I was really happy with the judging with the exception of Buytens’ race where he was scored far too low on his tricks.
Enduro-X was added this year and I really am happy about that. It is so fun to watch and was never over until the checkered flag flew. Taddy Blasuziak took the overall after 10 time US Trials champ Geoff Aaron got wedged in the rocks on his Geico 2wd Honda. I felt kind of bad for the women’s division as they had to compete on a course that was pretty worked over from the men. The skill level for the deteriorated course put just about every competitor in the class on the ground in the final at least once!
So my picks for X were pretty poor. But- James Randolph from Seattle, Washington was closest out of the 73 entries we received at Freestylemx.com. He was 84% correct in his picks and wins a set of Pequeno over the ear headphones courtesy of Boost Mobile!
My take on X Games 17 overall? I am completely jealous of the skate/BMX park course which was the best I have seen on a temp course EVER. A course like that does generate interest in the sport to attract new fans and maybe even get some kids (and adults) out to the stores to buy a new board or bike. I turn forty tomorrow and have been decent on a BMX but terrible on a skate board, and even I was motivated to go break myself at a local park. The FMX side of things does not quite translate as well, but I think with better marketing and involvement from sponsors to inject some money into the program that the moto-sports could rise again to viewership levels of old or better. The judging at times for moto events (was working for Pastranathon in Indy this weekend so I have not seen the other sports much yet) was suspect and almost appeared biased at times. Crap like that needs addressed as it only erodes the credibility of the sport to the fans who love it most. The new multiple car on same course Rally was awesome and with a few tweaks along the way could be a hot new commodity not only in X Games but in America in general where rally is still pretty new. As I remarked earlier in this story- fan judging is not good. Honestly I think it is the worst kind of way to pick a winner. FMX was not predicated on a popularity contest and the rider who rides for the team that sells the most T-shirts at the mall shouldn’t always win. Yes I mean Mulisha riders, and before you email me to say Twitch is not Metal Mulisha anymore, I will say that most cupcaked hairdo girls and skinny jeaned boys don’t know that. Anyway- Best Trick flowed awesome which it had not in years prior, Enduro-X was put out well and the announcers even did a fantastic job of explaining it for the new fan. The FMX course worked better than even I thought and Speed and Style balanced the two great.
A special thanks to Kristen Beat who spent the whole weekend on the floor, AxtionTV and Dbel Films for the Twitch interview and to all those who texted me updates and scoops throughout the process!