There is an ‘extreme’ in the name of the X-Games for a good reason. Everyone who saw an event at X-Games XVIII in Los Angeles was reminded exactly why.
Bruised bodies, twisted metal, inverted tricks, a haze of pre-mix and a long queue of athletes ready to put their bodies and their reputations on the line – it was business as usual at this year’s Moto X events.
Legends are born and winners are made; with fame, comes risk. When it goes wrong, it is nasty. So nasty in fact, some riders spend many years recovering and paying for it physically. However, that’s the nature of the beast at the X-Games. It’s safe to say no-one left the Staples Center disappointed.
The X-Games has become an increasingly international gathering; more and more overseas competitors have found their way to the podium in a range of events. Riders from all ends of the world made their way to Southern California to have a shot at glory.
Kicking off with a hiss and a roar, Japanese rider Taka Higashino took out first place in Thursday’s Freestyle event. A standout in 2011, Higashino impressed the judges with rubber-man dexterity, consistency and style. Co-incidentally, Higashino traded places with US rider Nate Adams who finished first in 2011.
Adams’ consistency and determination earned him fourth-best placing in 2012, while Higashino went from fourth-best in 2011 to first place in 2012.
Scoring a very respectable 93.3, Higashino finished ahead of New Zealander Levi Sherwood (Silver) and Chilean Javier Villegas (Bronze).
Readers will note that the top three riders in the Freestyle event all rode two-stroke bikes.
It is said that history never repeats – however in Step-Up, it very nearly did. The high-jump contest quickly turned into a head-to-head battle between Ronnie Renner and Matt Buyten that mirrored the showdown of last year.
The Americans were neck-and-neck until Renner walked away with the Gold medal after successfully clearing the bar, raised to a sky-scraping, record-breaking height of 47 feet. The pair switched places this year – Buyten won the contest in 2011 with his 37′ jump, beating Renner’s 35’6” effort. This year saw Renner snatch his third Gold in Step-Up; the Florida rider grabbed first place in 2007 and 2009.
X-Games stalwart and Metal Mulisha General Brian Deegan finished third in the event, before heading around the corner to compete in the RallyCross event – where he also netted a Bronze medal. Deegan has competed in at least one X-Games event every year since 1999.
Australian rider Jackson ‘Jacko’ Strong made it two in a row, winning the Best Trick event for the second year running, finishing above Silver place getter Taka Higashino and Bronze medalist Cameron Sinclair. The loud and proud two-stroke rider rode without a shirt under his vest and finished in true Metal Mulisha style, complete with backflip/body-varial combinations left, right and center. Jacko dropped jaws and wowed crowds the previous year when he landed a front flip.
On the circuit, Californian Vicki Golden edged out Puerto-Rican Tarah Gieger in a split-second victory in the women’s Racing competition.
Livia Lancelot’s steely effort saw the French speedster leave the ground with a Bronze medal.
Jeremy ‘Twitch’ Stenberg took home the Gold in Best Whip, stretching out in front of Jarryd McNeil (Silver) and Todd ‘The Moustache’ Potter (Bronze). Twitch’s efforts saw him win the event for the second year in a row.
Speed & Style, an event that puts every aspect of a rider’s skill set under the blowtorch, was a real crowd-pleaser. Reminiscent of last year’s Adams vs Mason/four-stroke vs two-stroke battle, which Adams won, the final was fast and furious.
Crossing the desert from next-door Nevada, Mike Mason walked away with the gold medal this year.
Fellow Nevadan Carey Hart competed in the event, scoring a 75 to finish 7th in the quarter-finals. X-Games XVIII was Hart’s last; the freestyle legend nailed a widely-viewed backflip at the 2000 Gravity Games, marking a historic moment in freestyle motocross.
Maria Forsberg batted away her rivals for a convincing win in women’s Enduro X, beating Louise Forsley (Silver) and Chantelle Bykerk (Bronze).
Tennessee native and veteran rider Mike Brown grabbed first place in the men’s event, finishing ahead of Cody Webb (Silver) and Cory Graffunder (Bronze).
In what will be a truly international affair, the X-Games will be held across four countries in 2013. Spain, Germany and Brazil have been given the nod to join the US as joint hosts of next year’s contest. With a new generation of riders emerging and three other countries in the mix, X-Games 2013 certainly has great expectations upon it.
No two X-Games are ever the same. However, year after year there is at least one common trait – the expectations placed on riders and the standard of competition head skyward.
What will be bestowed upon us next year, you could say, is completely up in the air.
After a long and decorated history at the X-Games, US rider Carey Hart announced this year’s competition would be his last. Always a force to be reckoned with, Carey is an undisputed legend and pioneer of competitive freestyle motocross. Carey – congratulations, all the best and thanks for the memories.
Article by TSM Guest Editor: Paul Savage