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Pastrana Gives It the Once Over, Twice

Times Staff Writer

The anticipation had been building for three years, but began in earnest Friday with only two riders remaining before Travis Pastrana revved his Suzuki for the final time.

The X Games’ favorite son had the super-kicker ramp, which was used only once in 17 previous jumps by his nine opponents, moved back eight feet and raised an extra foot.

By the time it was his turn to end the moto X best-trick competition, arena personnel were working on the landing area, digging it up, softening it for a worst-case scenario.

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And everyone knew what was coming.

Like the consummate entertainer -- the Evel Knievel of his generation -- Pastrana landed a double back flip, the first ever in any competition, providing a signature moment in X Games history.

Because of the fear factor, it matched the 900-degree spin by Tony Hawk in a skateboard competition in 1999, and it raised the competitive bar unreasonably high.

Pastrana, a 22-year-old from Annapolis, Md., landed cleanly, threw his motorcycle down, ran to the top of the landing area and thrust his arms into the air.

Literally, figuratively, he was king of the mountain.

“I don’t think there is a trick that can top it right now,” said Australian Blake Williams, who took third place. “It was pretty cool.”

But Pastrana’s defining moment was not perfect. The crowd inside Staples Center watched the scoreboard, expecting a perfect score of 100.0 -- they already knew he had secured his sixth gold medal -- but Pastrana received a 98.6, slightly less than the X Games record 99.5 he scored in the freestyle competition in 1999 at San Francisco.

Pastrana, third after the first round of jumps, was fourth going into his final attempt.

“The fact I was in fourth secured my decision [to attempt the double back flip], although I did play ‘rock, paper, scissors,’ ” he said.

“I know that rock always wins, and for some reason, I came up with scissors. So it was game-on.”

Pastrana had his doubts, right up to the last moment.

“I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to land it, but was confident enough that I could get close enough that I would live to try another day,” he said.

It didn’t start off exactly as he had planned; he went too far forward once he left the lip of the ramp.

“I thought, ‘Ah, it stopped momentum,’ ” he recalled. “It didn’t slow it down too much ... but in the foam pit, that means I’m on my way upside down.... I gave it everything I had. The next thing I’m going to feel is the dirt, if I feel anything. By miracle, I saw the ground, right at the last second I pulled it in. I’m like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that actually worked.’ ”

Pastrana said he needed to get about 45 feet in the air to complete the jump, which he had completed only once before, on dirt and during a practice.

Although these games were already special to Pastrana because he is competing in his newest passion, rally racing, and is competing against former World Rally Champion Colin McRae, Friday will be tough to top.

“That,” Pastrana said, “was the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”


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