When it comes to defying physics, flirting with fatality or just being an overall thrill-seeker, extreme sports athletes know how to do it right.
Last weekend’s Winter X Games were no exception, celebrating another highly anticipated chapter of organized stunt competition, which was first cultivated circa the 1990s.
Thursday’s showcase began with heavy hearts, as the late Sarah Burke was honored by her mourning friends and family, as well as the competitors. The four-time X Games gold medalist and Aspen native pioneered the sport of freestyle skiing. She died a few days after suffering catastrophic head injuries while training for the “superpipe” competition last month.
The ceremony included friends of Burke taking a quiet, glow stick-lit walk down a darkened half-pipe in remembrance.
Over four days, the 16th annual Winter X Games showcased some of the blossoming year’s most gratifying performances, highlighted by none other than “The Flying Tomato” himself, two-time Olympic gold medalist Shaun White, who, evidently, has not lost a spin, flip or grab since last year’s competition.
Like most extreme sports athletes, White hardly ever garners pride in an average performance. Striving to be more innovative and to go faster and higher than the last person is the name of the game, and White proved capable yet again.
In Sunday night’s superpipe competition, White earned his fifth consecutive X Games gold medal in the event and the Winter X Games’ first-ever perfect score, tallying 100 points from judges on his third and final run.
In the run, the 12-time X Games gold medalist unveiled his latest trick marvel, a front-side double cork 1260 — becoming the first ever to land the combo — along with pulling off a few classics like the double McTwist 1260, frontside stalefish 540, Cab double cork 1080, frontside double cork 1080 and 180-foot backside air.
Although White may have earned the event’s so-called “Most Valuable Player” award, many others also pushed boundaries between normality and insanity.
Sled freestyle rider Heath Frisby completed the first-ever front flip. Yes, a front flip on a snowmobile. Then again, once upon a time the 900 was thought to be impossible, too — until Tony Hawk reimagined the possibilities of skateboarding by successfully spinning two and a half times around in the air.
On the other hand, challenging the “impossible” doesn’t always have a pretty result. Dirt bike and sled freestyle rider Justin Hoyer attempted the first-ever double back flip, just one run before Frisby’s, but did not share the same luck. Hoyer failed to fully complete his second flip, resulting in a hospital trip for the 30-year-old to treat a fractured left ankle and right forearm.
The bottom line is: Extreme sports — with the helpful popularity of ESPN’s X Games — have become the optimization for the term “don’t try this at home.”
Extreme sports athletes put themselves in dangerous situations — the tightrope-walk of serious injury — and consistently defy the limitations of the human body.