LeBron isn’t alone in battling the intense Texas heat this week. The first full day of X Games action kicked off Friday afternoon in Austin with athletes riding in sweltering 92-degree conditions. Friday’s action featured a mix of the old and the new: the return of a BMX legend and the rise of a young champion.
As the last rider to complete his third and final run in BMX Street, Garret Reynolds knew he needed to score higher than Dakota Roche’s 89.33 to reclaim his spot at the top of the podium. Until last year in L.A., when he finished second to Chad Kerley, the gold medal was Reynolds’ personal property. The 23-year-old had never lost since the discipline’s first inclusion in the 2008 X Games.
Because of the relentless heat, Reynolds wasn’t sure he had enough energy to pull off a run that would win it. After taking a rough fall in a practice run, completing two full preliminary runs and two more final runs, Reynolds was completely exhausted. “I honestly was doubting myself because I was so tired,” he says. “I was so dead. There were some tricks where I was sweating, I was tired to the point that they were really hard for me to do.”
With the gold medal on the line, Reynolds overcame his fatigue to score 90.66, good enough to return him to his familiar post. Reynolds sealed his seventh X Games gold by pulling off a final trick (360 to fakie on the steep banked wedge) just as the final buzzer sounded.
This time around it wasn’t fellow Nike BMX teammate Kerley to challenge Reynolds down to the final run. Kerley failed to survive the first round; his best score of 81 put him in eighth place, two spots shy of moving on to the final. In Kerley’s absence, Dakota Roche stepped up, wasting no time in putting up the number to beat in his first run, 89.33. A two-time X Games bronze medalist, Roche’s silver is his best X Games finish. Reynolds says he was impressed by the way Roche rode the course. “The way I rode, I did a bunch of little tech tricks,” he said. “[Roche] had such an amazing way of riding the course. It was a lot faster, and he went bigger. It was two completely different ways to ride it.”
Another American rider joined Reynolds and Roche in the top three. 23-year-old California native Dennis Enarson finished third with 88.33 points for his sixth X Games medal.
Skateboard Big Air
While a veteran asserted his dominance in BMX, Skateboard Big Air ushered in a new champion: 14-year-old Tom Schaar. Schaar’s 720 over the gap and a 900 on the quarterpipe in his third of five runs scored him an 89.00 and crowned him the youngest athlete to ever win an X Games gold in Big Air. “This is crazy, I can’t believe this all went down,” Schaar said. Schaar beat out athletes more than twice his age, 37-year-old Bob Burnquist (88.00) took silver and 32-year-old Edgard Pereira (87.00) took bronze. Following his win, the young phenom smiled through his braces and said he planned to celebrate his win with a big barbeque steak dinner.
Skateboard Street Elimination
The field of 20 skaters narrowed down to 12. Ryan Sheckler finished with the best score of both heats, and the only skater to score in the 90s. Sheckler’s huge 90.33 was nearly three points better than his closest competitor in the first heat, Trevor Colden (87.66) and six points higher than the third best finisher in heat one, Curren Caples (84.33).
In the second heat, five-time X Games gold medalist Nyjah Huston’s score of 88 set him on top of Luan Olivieira (85) and Ishod Wair (81.33).
Rookie Riley Hawk, Tony Hawk’s 21-year-old son, just missed qualifying for the next round.
Men’s Enduro X
The Men’s Enduro X final saw another veteran rider take the title. Polish rider Taddy Blazusiak won his fourth X Games medal. Blazusiak took an early lead in the second lap over American Colton Haaker and Spain's Alfredo Gomez. But a rough crash while landing a jump in the fifth lap allowed Haaker to narrow the gap, and Blazusiak had to fight to build back his lead. “I made a silly mistake over the log and went from six to seven seconds ahead to nothing,” Blazusiak said. But the experienced rider held on to finish first in 8:53. Cody Webb (8:37) and Alfredo Gomez (8:41) crossed the finishline after Blazusiak, both had passed Haaker in the ninth lap.
Women's Enduro X
Kaci Martinez won her first X Games gold in Women's Enduro X, finishing nearly ten seconds faster than silver medalist Sandra Gómez Cantero. One of the biggest names in Moto X Tarah Geiger, who Martinez calls her biggest competition, finished well outside the podium in seventh place. ”Geiger bobbled in the start,” 23-year-old Martinez said. “I got a fantastic start and just rode smooth from there.” Another young American rider landed on the podium with Martinez, 18-year-old Rachel Gutish, who missed her high school graduation for the competition, finished third to earn her first X Games medal.
The fans spoke and chose Tom Parsons as Best Whip champion. The X Games rookie caught some huge air to catch the most attention on Twitter and win with 33 percent of the fan vote. Four-time Best Whip winner Jeremy Stenberg won silver with 23 percent and Josh Hansen earned bronze with 18 percent.
36-year-old Ronnie Renner took home the gold yet again in his 20th X Games appearance. The defending champion easily soared over 34 feet to earn the title, though he was far short of his X Games record 47 feet which he set in L.A. in 2012. Silver medalist Bryce Hudson couldn’t match Renner’s 34 feet, and finished at 33 feet, 5 inches.