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Risking Life For Adrenaline: The Danger of Being an X-Games Athlete

Last night was the first snowmobile freestyle competition of the Winter X-Games since last year’s fatal conclusion resulting in the death of 25-year old athlete Caleb Moore. Moore died a week after his 450-pound snowmobile fell on top of him while attempting to land a backflip – a trick he had nailed plenty of times before.


Despite the tragedy of the 2013 Winter X-Games, Moore’s younger brother Colten continued to pursue his shared passion of freestyle snowmobiling and returned to Aspen – the same place his brother crashed – and won the Gold in last night’s contest.



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Colten Moore showing off his medal from last night’s X-Games

In an interview before the contest, Colten said his older brother would smack him if he quit and that he feels Caleb’s presence around him all the time while he’s riding. Colten also noted that he was determined to take first place in honor of his brother’s memory.

 

The danger associated with the X-Games competitions has always been a cause for debate, especially when an athlete gets seriously injured during an event or while practicing for it. Moore’s death was the first in X-Games 18-year history, but X-Games organizers, along with ESPN who broadcasts the games, and the athletes themselves continuously face ridicule for risking their lives for the sheer adrenaline rush they get when pushing themselves a little bit further while spinning and flying stories-high in the air.


Some other athletes whose lives have been changed by chasing the thrill of their sport are Paul Thacker, another snowmobile rider who became paralyzed after a 2010 crash, snowboarder Kevin Pearce who suffered a severe brain injury, and BMX rider Stephen Murray, also now paralyzed, just to name a few.


But in every interview I’ve seen, every X-Games athlete says the same thing when it comes to risk vs. reward – they are completely aware of the potential danger, but the feeling of landing a trick you’ve been working on for months, or throwing down a perfect run in a competition cannot be matched by doing anything else.

I’ve always been an avid fan of the X-Games because it is truly mesmerizing to see the level of talent these athletes possess, their no-fear attitude, and how drastically they progress year after year. I can still distinctly remember the historic moment that skateboarder Tony Hawk landed the first 900 (spinning 2 and a half rotations in the air) in an X-Games competition back in 1999. Now a 900 is no big deal and the ante has been upped to landing 1080s and 1260s.


Freeze frames of Shaun White doing a Double Cork 1080

Freeze frames of Shaun White doing a Double Cork 1080

The X-Games are a showcase of what humans are capable of doing and a celebration of rare talent. Despite some black marks on the event’s history, the scrutiny from naysayers will continue to be ignored, and athletes will continue to put on a hell of a show.