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.
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.