Motocross champion James Stewart to make X Games debut
Shaun White is out, but James Stewart is in.
White, a longtime skateboarding star of the action-sports festival, will attend but will not compete at X Games 15 this week because he is preparing for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, where he’ll try to win a second gold medal in the snowboarding halfpipe competition.
However, Stewart will add at least as much star power as he makes his X Games debut in tonight’s Moto X Best Whip contest -- it will be decided by a text-message vote of fans -- and Saturday’s Moto X SuperMoto and Super X finals.
The world’s most dominant force in motocross and supercross is playing it cool, not cocky, citing rust from a layoff and saying he’s somewhat out of his element in the first two disciplines. He’ll take his first crack at the Super X course today in practice.
Of trying supermoto -- a cross between road racing and motocross -- for the first time, Stewart said, “Everybody expects me to try to win. And that’s the fun part of it but also the nervous part. My first step will be trying to qualify, and after that we’ll see.”
Here’s a not-so-bold prediction: Stewart will be on the podium at least twice and contend for the Super X gold. He wouldn’t be here if he didn’t think he could win.
A quick look around the X Games:
The X Games turn 15 this week, and though there are too many memorable moments to list, here are a few: Tony Hawk’s 900 on a skateboard in 1999; Dave Mirra’s double back flip on a BMX bike in 2000; Travis Pastrana’s double back flip on a motorcycle in 2006; and Jake Brown’s 45-foot slam -- and amazing recovery -- on skateboarding’s mega-ramp in 2007.
Moment to come
Pastrana, who has retired from freestyle motocross and now competes in the safer sport of rally car racing, is back in the Moto X Best Trick contest, and that can only mean he has dreamed up something wild. Here it is: a no-handed back flip 360.
It’s so ridiculous that even Pastrana is bewildered by it -- and scared of it. But if he nails it, he’ll claim gold. If he doesn’t, he’ll be hurting.
Also, Charles Pages from France probably will try a front flip, which has never been landed during a competition.
The X Games run today through Sunday at Staples Center and Home Depot Center. The Moto X Best Trick final begins Friday at 7 p.m. at Staples Center and will be broadcast live on ESPN.
James “Bubba” Stewart on the X Games: “The average person always thinks soccer, football and basketball players are the toughest athletes. But man, I think the guys that come to the X Games are probably some of the most gnarly and talented athletes in the world.”
Tonight’s marquee competition is the Skateboard Big Air final, and look for Bob Burnquist to win for the third consecutive year.
Why? Because he has a mega-ramp in the backyard of his Vista, Calif., home, and that just doesn’t seem fair.
And because Danny Way, skateboarding’s Superman who invented the mega-ramp, is injured and will compete only in Friday’s Big-Air Rail Jam.
The rail jam is new and features tricks performed on an arched rail spanning the mega-ramp’s gap, which leads to a landing ramp and quarterpipe wall.
Odds and ends
* Among White’s tasks will be to promote “X Games 3D,” a full-length movie that will be in theaters for one week only beginning Aug. 21. The world premiere is today at L.A.'s Nokia Theatre.
White, Pastrana, Way, Ricky Carmichael, Burnquist and Kyle Loza are featured athletes.
* A brief tribute to Jeremy Lusk, last year’s freestyle motocross gold medalist who died in February after a crash in Costa Rica, will take place Saturday at about 4 p.m. at Home Depot Center.
* Street skaters are sure to be pleased with the new Skateboard Park course, which has been significantly upgraded and includes concrete features that resemble real-life obstacles. The final is Sunday.
* Mirra pulled out of Saturday’s BMX Park competition but will compete in BMX Big-Air and Rally Car Racing. Both of those finals are Sunday.
Given the dangerous and at times destructive nature of X Games disciplines, here’s perhaps the most remarkable statistic of all (knock on wood): There have been no deaths in 14 years.
It’s a testament to the skill and durability of the athletes, of course, but also to a dedication to safety among the X Games’ staff.
Here’s hoping the trend continues this year and beyond.
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* at Home Depot Center: 2 p.m., women’s skateboard vert; 3 p.m., women’s skateboard street.
* at Staples Center: 5:15 p.m., Moto X Best Whip*; 5:45 p.m. skateboard big air; 7 p.m., Moto X step up.
* at Home Depot Center: 9:30 a.m., Hood games experience*; 11 a.m., Hometown heroes street*; 12:15 p.m., skateboard park adaptive jam*; 3:30 p.m., skateboard vert amateur; 4 p.m., BMX freestyle street; 5:30 p.m., Moto X Super X adaptive.
* at Staples Center: 5 p.m., skateboard Big-Air Rail Jam; 5:45 p.m., BMX freestyle big air; 7 p.m., Moto X Best Trick.
* at Home Depot Center: 10:30 a.m., skateboard L.A. shop; Noon, BMX freestyle park; 1:30 p.m., Moto X SuperMoto; 2 p.m., men’s skateboard street; 4:30 p.m., men’s Moto X Super X; 5 p.m., BMX freestyle vert; 6:15 p.m., women’s Moto X Super X; 6:30 p.m., men’s skateboard vert; 7 p.m., Moto X freestyle.
* at Home Depot Center: 10:30 a.m., skateboard street high school; 12:30 p.m., skateboard park; 1:30 p.m., Rally Car Racing super special; 2 p.m., skateboard park legends.
* -- Denotes exhibition