The day before at the opening day of the Summer X Games, Travis Pastrana earned the gold in Moto X Freestyle, surprising the crowd with a double backflip that he didn’t need to attempt since he already had the gold won over Levi Sherwood.
With BMX and skateboarding halfpipe events taking place across the street inside the Nokia Theater at LA Live, the competition inside the Staples Center kicked off in the afternoon with Moto X Step Up. The event is like a motocross version of high jump where riders launch up the face of a steep jump, clear a 26-foot-high pole without knocking it down and then pull the landing on the back side of the jump. Even if they clear the bar, without landing the jump the attempt doesn’t count. Each rider gets two chances to clear each level, and if they don’t they are eliminated.
Crowd favorites Brian Deegan and Jeremy Stenberg (who was out with an ankle injury) both were scratched from the six-man Step Up final. The competition would feature riders that included Myles Richmond, Jeff Kargola, Beau Bamburg, Todd Potter, Matt Buyten and Ronnie Renner.
The high-jump bar was put in place at the starting height of 26 feet, which eventually maxxed out at a height of 36 feet. Although riders could technically tap the bar, it is very loosely held in place and would most likely get knocked off with the slightest touch. Defending champion in Step Up is Ronnie Renner, who won last year’s event after clearing a height of 34 feet.
At the first height of 26, all riders cleared the bar with relative ease. The bar was then bumped up two feet to 28 feet, which caused Bamburg some trouble after he knocked off the bar on his first attempt. On his second try, he also nicked the bar again but it managed to stay on and he cleared the height with the rest of the field.
The bar then was raised to 29 feet, 6 inches, and Bamburg was the first casualty of the height after missing the jump in his two attempts. Kargola also was eliminated after clearing the bar with relative ease but catching it on the way down with his rear tire. The bar was then raised another foot, which the field cleared. The bar was then raised to 32 feet, 6 inches, which proved to be too much for Potter and Richmond, who both hit the bar on their two attempts.
With the field whittled down to two riders, the final saw defending champion Renner battle with Buyten at a height of 33 feet, 6 inches. Buyten was unable to clear the pole in his attempts, and all Renner needed to do was clear the bar on one of his two runs to take the gold. Renner seemed to just choke, having two of his worst jumps of the night where he hit the bar on the way up. So, since neither could clear it they both got one more shot. Buyten “stepped up” and cleared on his run; Renner got one chance to match it but couldn’t clear the bar again. Buyten took home the gold, Renner the silver.
"Every year, Step Up is a dog fight, and I knew it was going to come down to me and Renner," Buyten said. "It's much harder than it looks to do, and the landings are rough. I have a massage already scheduled for Monday."
|Step Up Medals|
|Gold||Matt Buyten||33 feet, 6 inches|
|Silver||Ronnie Renner||32 feet, 6 inches|
|Bronze||Myles Richmond & Todd Potter||30 feet, 6 inches|
Best Whip was the next event on tap for the fans at Staples Center, with a field that included riders Jarryd McNeil, Josh Grant, Beau Bamburg, Josh Hansen, Jeremy Stenberg and Todd Potter. The format gives the riders 10 minutes of free forum riding broken into two five-minute segments. Instead of having judges give out scores, the catch with Best Whip is the winner is determined by fan voting with texts.
For those unfamiliar, the whip is a classic motocross move where the rider essentially “whips” the rear of the bike as sideways as possible, and this group was performing whips on steroids. When the votes were tallied, Potter earned the voting public’s love and took the gold. Finishing in second and taking the silver was McNeil, while the Stenberg took the Bronze in third.
"I felt great tonight, and thank you for voting for me," Potter said. "This event has always been good to me. I am already considering how I can take it to the next level for next year."
|Best Whip Medals|
Moto X Best Trick
The night culminated with Best Trick, where each competitor gets two runs to land the craziest trick. Judges score the trick based on its style and difficulty and award a score based on those factors. In the end, the top three finishers were all first-time medalists at the X Games. The field included Taka Higashino, Todd Potter, Rich Kearns, Clinton Moore, Robbie Maddison, Cam Sinclair, Paris Rosen and Kyle Loza.
Sinclair came out and set the bar very high early, as he launched a double backflip on his first run, which is only the third time the trick has been landed at the X Games. Sinclair set the bar so high that no one was able to beat his score with another trick, and he didn’t even need to perform his final run. The Australian had been recovering from a bad injury after an accident at an event in Spain.
"After my accident in Spain, I had lots of practice and preparation for this competition," Sinclair said. "Even though I have completed the double backflip eleven times, I was really worried because the set-up is different everywhere. I am excited that I was able to pull it off."
Sinclair’s fellow Aussie native Maddison took home the silver after landing a smooth spin on his first run and then landing a Volt to side-saddle lander that he made look easy. Higashino earned his first medal with a double grab indy air that Maddison said was an amazing trick that could’ve easily earned him the silver.
"I am honored to get silver and am stoked to get my first medal," Maddison said. "Taka's trick was insane, and to me, I see no difference between second and third."
Higashino was excited to earn his podium spot after not placing in the top three in his previous X Games appearance.
"I am super excited. This is my fourth year at X Games and my first medal," Higashino said. "Sometimes the difficulty of the trick messes with my head then I think about Jeremy Lusk. I felt like he was with me and I stuck it."
The competition did have a very unfortunate moment when Paris Rosen was injured attempting a front flip. When he took off the from the jump it appeared as though he didn’t have enough momentum in his spin to get the bike around, and the end result was he landed on his back on the backside of the jump. Although he was taken off the course on a stretcher, his manager did say that he was able to move his toes but was being taken to the hospital for X-rays.
|Moto X Best Trick Medals|