This is a special edition of Extreme Exposure where we bring you updates each day from X Games Austin 2015.
The X Games has been part of our sporting vernacular for more than 20 years now and it’s still just as special. Winning gold can validate a career—careers of dedicated athletes not often given this type of stage to display their skills. So let's take a look at the big winners from Saturday’s action.
Padding the Legacy
At 38, Bob Burnquist is one of the most decorated skaters in X Games history. And he added to his trophy case last night, capturing the Big Air gold medal with a superbly clean second run, combing a 540 over the gap with an indy 720 on the vert ramp. Burnquist, who hails from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil but lives in Vista, California, now has 13 X Games golds and 28 medals overall. And the fact that he persevered through a non-displaced fracture of his left forearm only added to the legend.
Old guys ruled Austin Friday as 43-year-old Mike Brown took home his third X Games gold in Enduro X, an event that mimics trail riding with broken rock obstacles, jumps, vertical step ups and tight turns. Brown, who turned pro in 1989, pre-X Games and before many of today’s competitors were even born, has been a champion in multiple moto disciplines through the years. This is his third Endruo X gold, his last coming in 2013 in Barcelona. Brown also fought through personal distractions to regain gold-medal-form: his son broke his femur last week playing basketball.
Barcelona’s Laia Sanz won her fourth Enduro X gold but it didn’t come easy. She battled neck and neck with seven-time medalist Tarah Gieger. Sanz, who started riding motorcycles by sneaking on to her brother’s bike at age 4, is the most dominant rider in the sport and was nominated for an ESPY in 2013. Sanz and Geiger were duking it out when they came into a multi-racer pileup in the treacherous rock corner, a tough section that was tricky for both the men and women. Sanz was able to prevail when she came out of the pileup in cleaner fashion. “It’s really special to win here against as great a rider as Tarah,” the 29-year-old told ESPN. “We had a really nice fight.”
Passing the Torch
Jamie Bestwick has dominated BMX Vert for the last 9 years. But that all changed Friday as the 43-year-old English rider passed the torch on to 25-year-old upstart Vince Byron of Brisbane Australia. Bestwick has 13 X Games golds and had a vice grip on the event until Byron pulled off his signature 540 flair, a first for X Games. Byron has been on the brink of gold since 2011 with three silver medals to his name. He broke through in a big way Friday. Byron first landed the trick at the Kia World Extreme Games in China in April then repeated it in Austin.
It’s That Hard
This is what winning looks like at the X Games. And it definitely ain’t easy. Pierre-Luc Gagnon—who is often lauded for his smooth board control—captured his seventh gold medal and is one of the best vert skaters in history. This is the 35-year-old’s first vert gold since 2012 and the Canadian has dedicated his life to making it look this good: “Skateboarding is an art form to me,” he said.
For most of the athletes at X Games, winning Gold is a journey that takes such extreme focus and dedication, family can get lost in the fray. But a win at X Games can also make a career. Daniel Sandoval let his emotions pour out Friday after winning BMX Park, his first gold medal. Sandoval’s father passed away in 2009 and he was quick to give credit to those closest to him: “Had an unbelievable day and so happy to have spent it with this brat,” he said of his girlfriend Mariah Renee on Instagram. “She was running around getting me water, making sure I had a seat in front of a fan and had a cool [towel] around my neck.” Austin’s native son, Chase Hawk, who won gold last year, finished sixth.