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Original Publication date: February 6, 2000
Apparently the Winter X Games are going on right now. But not only is YoBeat banned from the event, we don’t care! Since everyone else will be beating the coverage to a bloody pulp, we thought what better excuse to resurrect a classic from the archives? Now we’re not so egotistical as to claim this is the greatest piece of journalism ever, but the ensuing drama certainly is. Check back tomorrow for the fall out.
For some reason, ESPN decided that it would be a good idea to bring the X Games to the east coast this year. Actually, the real reason is that American Skiing Company bid a ridiculous amount of money to host the event, and then decided to hold it at Mt. Snow, a resort which was far from adequate to hold any event of this magnitude. Regardless of preparedness, on February 3rd, a few hundred extreme athletes from around the globe came to participate in their respective sports. They didn’t come for the fame and glory, or because an X Games gold medal brings so much pride to your country and family, everyone who showed up was there because first place in every discipline received $10,000. Better yet, everyone who participated received at least $250 dollars just for showing up. Not to destroy the myth, but the X Games are far from glamorous or prestigious.
The first two days of the games brought the snowboarding slopestyle and boardercross, skier-X, Sno-cross, and Snow Mountain Biking. With the exception of Thursday night’s party, where one could run into Tony Hawk or enjoy as much free booze as desired, the first two days of the games were pretty slow. The course set up for all of the snowboard events was not at all conducive to viewing, so there were a few diehards in the trees, but not much else.
If you’ve ever watched some of the television coverage and wondered, what were the judges thinking when they gave that guy third, let me explain it to you. The judges have the winners all picked out long before anyone drops in. If someone unexpected does well, they will receive fourth, as ESPN failed to create a profile on them to show before their run. If one of the pre-decided winners does poorly, the judges are forced to give them a high score anyway. Case in point, Peter Line. In Thursday’s slopestyle, he managed to pull off a bronze medal for a run that shouldn’t have even gotten him into the top ten. Slightly more deserving in men’s slopestyle were Kevin Jones who got first, and Todd Richards, riding better than he had in years, getting second.
For ladies, Tara Dakides, the undisputed best all around female snowboarder in the world took home the gold. When the weekend was through, she’d be walking home with over $20,000. Jaime Macleod, moved up one spot on the podium from last year’s games to take the silver. In third was Barrett Christy.
On the other side of the mountain, snowboarder Shaun Palmer had humiliated the field of skiers but taking the gold in the skier-X. Luckily for ESPN he did this, so they could continue to call him the king, because what was to happen the next day in boarder X, might ruin him forever, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
The real crowd showed up on Friday for the Sno-cross. This event is really something, but not I’m not quite sure what. It managed to attract every ski-doo jacket-clad redneck family in Southern Vermont, which is quite a few. Although alcohol was “not allowed at the X Games,” the Budweiser cans littering the slopes after that event greatly out numbered the inches of natural snow Mt. Snow has received, ever. ESPN had a field day with the Sno-cross, as 15 year old Tucker Hibbert beat his dad and field of pros to take gold in the event. Don’t worry, if you missed this, you’ll certainly be able to catch the “story of the year” in re-runs.
On the boarder X course, a story the X Games aren’t so proud of was unfolding. It seems that at the hand of Drew Neilson and Seth Wescott, their golden boy Shaun Palmer had barely even finished the final race. Instead a collision between the three men had caused him to slide across the finish line with three broken ribs, and no gold medal. Instead it was Drew Neilson who crossed first, followed by Scott Gaffney and Jason Ford. The girls boarder X was not quite so eventful. Leslee Olson easily took gold being the only girl to do the optional gap on the course, giving her a sizable lead over Carlee Baker and Line Oestvold, second and third respectively.
The real show, the one that attracted a supposed 80,000 people, started Saturday. The snowboard “superpipe” was far from super, but it still managed to attract thousands who pressed themselves up against the fence in hopes of being on television. The spectator area around the pipe was great, especially the way it prevented you from seeing any of the action. If you were sandwiched somewhere in the crowd, you may have missed what turned into a free-for-all between Todd Richard and local boy Ross Powers. Richards, who looked like he was having fun snowboarding for the first time in a while, was also riding better than he has in years. Powers was going huge, and certainly had the crowd’s support behind him. In the finals, Todd threw down an untouchable run his second time through, and although Ross did some ante-upping, adding an extra 720 to his already impressive run, it wasn’t enough to dethrone Richards. Mammoth, CA local Tommy Czechin was riding well also, well enough for third. Another rider in the finals was Luke Wynen. He really didn’t do anything special, but gets mad if he isn’t mentioned in every story written. Trevor Andrew had a sick run, but his only reward is that according to announcer Steve Ruff, “He’s got mad steez.” In the end, Richards was atop the podium with the gold, Powers got the silver, and Czechin the bronze.
The only thing I have to say about the women’s halfpipe competition is that Kim Stacy got robbed. After the skiing camera man ran into her mid run, and she expressed her disgust, it was clear she wouldn’t earn a spot on the podium, despite the fact that she was going bigger than any of the girls and a lot of the guys. Stine Brun Kjeldaas received the gold, Barrett Christy the silver, and Natasza Zurek the silver.
I’m sure some other events happened on Saturday, but I’ll be damned if I know what they were. Saturday night however, was the real party. ESPN put on a concert for the athletes and team managers featuring Cypress Hill. I bet this wasn’t that good, but I wouldn’t know because I couldn’t get in. I did hear that Cypress Hill played two songs and the speakers blew. This caused everyone to show up at the University of Vermont condo, for what might have been, the most insane situation ever. Not one for scary drunken parties, I chose to go the GAP house, where they were having a fully catered shin-dig. After I was over this, I did make an appearance at the UVM party. Seems they had already caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to the house, and in the ten or so minutes I was there, would cause even more. Ross Powers was trying to start fights, full beer cans were flying, and there was a car accident. Somewhat overwhelmed, I decided that I should go to bed so I could get up early, and hopefully find out the big air had been canceled.
Since east coast weather is so awesome, the high winds caused Saturday’s snowboard and skier big air practice to be canceled. There were a lot of rumors circulating that the actually events would be canceled as well, but there was no such luck. Instead, the big air, became the “best trick” competition, and was moved to a smaller jump. With the exception of the occasional wind gust, the weather wasn’t even that bad. The skier big air took place first thing in the morning, long before I managed to get out of bed, but I heard it was cool. During the snowboard contest, I made the greatest discovery ever. The athletes were provided with a heated yurt, complete with a large array of food, and closed circuit televisions showing all the action going on outside. It was from here that I watched most of the event, including Tara Dakides’s backside 720. This was more than enough for the gold. Leah Wagner, in second place, did a front flip, and Jessica Dalpiaz spun a backside 360 for third. If Tara didn’t win the car for being the more extreme athlete at the games, it’s a conspiracy.
The men’s competition was all about 900’s. I think were about 4000 of them performed during the men’s runs. This would be why numbers 1, 2, and 3 all had a variation of the 900 as their winning trick. In third was Kevin Jones, second Jason Borgstede, who’s stock trick conveniently happens to be a backside 900. First place went to Peter Line, who did his 900 switch. The din that arose from the crowd when he stomped this and rode away was enough to realize that everyone else should go home.
I don’t know what happened in the rest of the events, I frankly, I don’t care. If you’re dying to find out what went down in Snow Mountain Biking, check out www.expn.com. If you want a slightly more detailed account of any of the snowboard events, go to www.twsnow.com.
In conclusion, the X Games were not that great, but they did keep me entertained for four days, and there was plenty of free booze. The level of athletics were some of the highest I’ve seen, and I think most people were having a good time. If only the event was run a little better for spectating, the X Games could shape up to be the funnest four days of the year.