Extreme Exposure: McMorris, Kim and Wells put on a show at X Games Aspen
In this week's edition of Extreme Exposure—a weekly column featuring news and photography from the world of action and outdoor sports—Mark McMorris adds to his X Games medal count while a 13-year-old bursts onto the scene in women’s Slopestyle skiing.
Saskatchewan’s Most Talented Son is a Shredder
It was another big weekend in Aspen for Mark McMorris. The gifted Canadian nabbed a silver in Big Air then followed it up with a gold in Slopestyle. That makes 12 X Games medals for Saskatchewan’s best snowboarder since 2011, all of which were silver or gold. It’s safe to say, he’s the winningest snowsports athlete ever from that Canadian province. “It’s insane how much Saskatchewan has bought in (to what I’m doing),” he told SI.com. “It’s a really tight-knit community.”
A community that, historically, is about pucks and ice. McMorris was weaned on hockey as well and he says that has helped him in his career. “It’s crazy,” he says. “I have about 10 close friends I grew up with who are playing in the NHL now and I really respect their work ethic and how they treat their sport. Snowboarding can still be a ‘punk sport’ and all about ‘what’s cool’ and that’s awesome, but at the same time, I like to perform my best and you have to put the work in.”
The Ballad of Jossi Wells
And just like that, the monkey is off the back. Jossi Wells, whose brother Byron and Beau-James also competed at the X Games in Aspen this weekend, finally got a gold medal. At 20, he captured the Association of Freeskiing Professionals’ World Championship and he’d medaled four times previously without nabbing the big one. Wells has been on the American freeskiing scene since he was 13, when he traveled to the States during the early years of the sport so it was a joyful moment for the New Zealand native. While he’s only 25, he’s considered a seasoned vet in the sport. “I’ve got another two or three years left before I put full energy into the filming and the backcountry side of things,” he told SI.com last week before the games. “But I’d like to get an X Games gold before I finish it all up.” Check off that box.
The Sport of Women’s Snowboarding is Safe
Chloe Kim easily solidified her superstar status in Aspen, going back-to-back in SuperPipe with another gold. She became the first athlete in X Games history to do so before turning 16. And she definitely added intrigue to the 2018 Olympics slated for South Korea, where the California resident’s parents hail from. Even at 15, Kim’s riding is incredibly mature: in her second run in the pipe, on her opening hit, she threw a frontside 1080 with a beautiful tail grab that wowed the judges and got the crowd fired up. That keen understanding of style insures that the women’s game has a very bright future.
This One’s For Estonia
In 2015 Chloe Kim became the youngest X Games gold medalist ever. That achievement didn’t stand long as 13-year-old Kelly Sildaru bested Kim’s record by a year when she laid down a beautiful run in women’s Slopestyle skiing to reach the podium’s top spot. The feat is even more impressive considering that Sildaru’s home mountain in Estonia (which shares its eastern border with Russia) is only 100 meters above sea level. “I have to travel a lot to (places like) America, France and Canada,” she said. Sildaru showed incredible amplitude in her runs: on the final jump the 5’1”, 88-pound phenom hucked a gigantic 900 where she literally looked like she had to work to stay on line as she flew through the air. It wasn’t the most stylish of her jumps or rail work—her K Fed on the top rail was a thing of beauty—but it showed a fearlessness not common in the women’s side of freeskiing. “Before that first run I was pretty nervous,” she said. “But I saw my run in my mind and now I’m just feeling happiness.”