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McElroy set for Winter X Games

Charles Whisnand column

Call me crazy, but the idea of riding a motorcyle off a ramp high in the air and doing some outrageous trick before landing on the snow — well, it makes me cringe just to think about it.

But to Fernley’s Drake McElroy it will be just another day at the office, although it is a new one.

McElroy will compete in the Big Air Motocross competition at the upcoming Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo. to be held Jan. 30-Feb. 2.

“I’ve never done it and you can’t really prepare for it,” the 21-year-old McElroy said. “I’m just kind of winging it. I’m going to pack my gear and get on the plane and show up.”

McElroy will have one day to practice on the snow when he arrives in Aspen. The snow where rides will land will be packed and watered down to make it as icy as possible.

“They try to keep it as icy as possible because you don’t want to break through the snow,” McElroy said.

Riders will also have screws on their tires for traction when they land. “I’m just going to show up and see what happens,” McElroy said.

McElroy is coming off a successful 2002 season in which he won a bronze medal in the freestyle motocross event at the X Games held in Philadelphia. In freestyle motocross, riders do a series of jumps and tricks over motocross course while in Big Air it’s all or nothing where riders have just one chance to do their best trick.

The trademark move for McElroy is his “Dead Body,” a move he invented in which he lies horizontally — in front — of his motorcycle while hanging onto the handle bars in mid-air.

McElroy said he will do his trademark move in Aspen, although he admits the judges will likely be looking for newer tricks.

“It probably won’t score that well,” he said. “People look for something new. I’m not always about doing stuff like that.”

Doing many moves on a consistent basis is more of McElroy’s strength, which explains his success in freestyle. McElroy finished the 2002 International Freestyle Motocross Association series as the No. 2 rider.

“I’m pumped about last year,” he said. “I tried to stay healthy for the most part. I accomplished a lot of things I wanted.”

“My goal when I went there was to take home a medal,” McElroy also said about the X Games. “Now I’ve got to get a gold one.”

Like most motocrosser’s careers in both freestyle and racing, McElroy’s has had its highs and lows. In 2001 at a Blue Torch Survival FMX session, he went off a 120 gap and ended up over jumping and landed on the upside face of the next dune. The crash resulted in a compression fracture to his T12 vertebrae, facial fractures and broken fibula and tibia in his left leg.

In 2002, he overcame a broken jaw. McElroy said his obvious goal is to stay away from injuries in 2003.

He’d also like to try his strongest event, freestyle motocross, in the snow some day at the Winter X Games. “That would be pretty cool,” he said.

Charles Whisnand is the Nevada Appeal Sports Editor.