Jamie Bestwick is the textbook definition of an X Games legend. The 43-year-old Englishman has won the last nine BMX Vert events at X Games. Outside of hiccups in 2004 and 2006, he’s actually won gold at every BMX Vert competition since 2003.
Bestwick is nearing the end of his X Games adventure, and in a recent interview with SI.com, he talked about the impossible goal of the ten-peat, as well as some of his favorite things about his time dominating the X Games.
SI.com: You’re a nine-time defending champion in the X Games BMX Vert. What is it about your riding that’s allowed you to dominate?
Jamie Bestwick: Passion. I have a huge passion for BMX. Becoming a BMX rider was always a dream of mine. When I was given the opportunity to come to X Games back in 1996, I did pretty well, a bronze medal. But that sparked a huge desire in me to search for that dream even more.
Over the years, I’d say it’s been a combination of things. It’s been about not squandering opportunities, but also about the imagination necessary to dream up these tricks and the somewhat reckless abandon to attempt them. Anyone who has had a dream knows that that is when you allow yourself to be the most creative and open to different ideas. All the ideas that flow through this event and these riders, they inspire me. That’s truly been the source of the continued success.
You have nothing left to prove, so why still do it?
JB: I really don’t have anything left to prove. Breaking Tony Hawk’s seven-peat was the original goal; obviously I have that stitched up. The last golden year was last year. I extended the record; I became the Laureus Action Sportsman of the year. There’s a lot of emphasis for me going for 10 in a row, but for me, it’s not so much about that. It’s more about being here for an opportunity for the passing of the torch.
I also wanted to come back and support the BMX Vert event; my sponsors Monster and Toyota are heavily involved in the competition this year. And the fans, I wanted to come and share this experience with the fans. They are one of my favorite things about X Games, and so I wanted to be a part of that.
The new events, specifically flat-track racing, intrigued me. I’m a fan of racing anything with two wheels.
Do you ever stop to think how crazy the idea of a 10-peat is?
JB: 10 in a row might be something to tell the kids about if I’m able to do it. I do think about how crazy it is to be in this position.
Someone from a local radio station got in touch with me and called it "dominance," and I guess it is that. I literally have dominated my sport for the last nine years. Some people, especially competitors, probably see that as frustrating, boring, and very annoying. I’ve experienced the envy.
But to others it’s a source of inspiration. They see a guy with such drive and passion for his sport that, at age 43, is still competing with guys half his age, yet still lighting the world on fire.
If not you today, who do you like in the BMX Vert?
JB: I like Vince Byron. He’s a great rider, the Australian. But if I was to lose this weekend, there would be only one person I’d be super happy to lose it to, and that’s my compatriot from England, Simon Tabron. He’s been so close over the years, and he’s always been one of those guys who just missed out on winning a gold at X Games. If I wasn’t able to fulfill the 10-peat and he won, I’d be very happy for him. So if not me, I’d go for Simon, but Vince is coming in very hot and may well be the guy to beat.
As a competitor, how important is the 10-peat to you?
JB: I think keeping me from the 10-peat may be more important to others than winning it is to me. Let’s say I didn’t win gold. At this point in my career, I wouldn’t view it as losing.
My competitors, the ones who have been waiting to see another champion crowned, may think that if I lost, it would undo everything that’s happened to this point, but unfortunately the damage has been done. There is no taking that away from me. I’m just here to continue to enjoy the ride, the fans, the X Games.
What was your favorite X Games venue?
JB: There have been some amazing venues in my time. My favorites are Foz do Iguacu in Brazil, Spain and here in Austin.
The global stops were nothing short of breathtaking. To ride at Iguacu Falls and under the beautiful Barcelona skyline; these are memories I’ll have for the rest of my life.
For me personally, the best competition had to be Austin last year. Downtown in front of the city hall building, 12,000 strong in the crowd, I heard every one of those people. It gave me goose bumps. It was a defining moment in my career because I connected with those fans, fed off of their energy. They helped me to another brilliant performance.