New venues for ‘old’ stars at downtown LA X Games
Associated Press Writer
LOS ANGELES – Only at the X Games, where athletes sometimes win medals before they graduate the eighth grade, would Travis Pastrana be considered an old man.
But it was a taunt about his decrepitude, and a wager to go with it, that brought the multi-sport star back to freestyle motocross where he made his name.
The 16th annual circus of twists, flips, and stunning risks returns for a four-day stint in downtown Los Angeles starting Thursday, and Pastrana, who has taken a relatively low profile in the last few games, is set to compete in a record five events.
Pastrana was on a spring tour for “Nitro Circus,” the MTV show where athletes combine action sports with “Jackass”-style stunts. His co-star Blake Williams, who has thrived in freestyle motocross since Pastrana shifted his focus to rally car racing a few years ago, teased the 26-year-old Pastrana about returning to the event this summer.
“He told me ‘You should come back to X Games and get smoked old man,”‘ Pastrana said.
The Australian Williams added an extra enticement, a bet of five dollars, though it wasn’t clear whether it would be Aussie or U.S. currency, Pastrana said.
Taking up the challenge, Pastrana will return to the event known here as Freestyle Moto X on Thursday night. He’s also set to compete in Moto X Best Trick, Rally Car Racing, the new Rally Car SuperRally and Moto X Speed and Style
The X Games have seen bigger stars – including virtual household names like Tony Hawk and Shaun White – but Pastrana has been the festival’s most enduring and versatile star, who embodies its combination of athleticism, personality and death-defying insanity.
He has won nine gold medals at the games, but in recent years hasn’t even attempted to conquer several events like he did in 2006, when he won three golds and pulled off the first-ever-in-competition double back flip, one of the Everests of the sport and one of the top moments in history.
He’s got something tougher and safer set aside for this year.
The trick, a 720 upright spin that doubles the unprecedented 360 he pulled off in 2003, initially had a scatological name that ESPN’s announcers couldn’t say. It was then dubbed the “toilet paper roll” and finally, in a play on the rider’s initials, “the TP roll.”
Unlike the double back flip, which Pastrana has often said is not technically difficult but requires fierce will and fearlessness, the “TP Roll” is a methodical nightmare, requiring the rider to turn in an unnatural direction the moment he comes off the ramp.
But it does have its advantages over the double back flip.
“If you don’t land it, you’re not gonna die,” Pastrana said with a giggle.
Pastrana expressed some concern that the lingering effect of a collarbone broken on the Nitro Circus tour could leave him without the upper-body strength to do the trick, but at midweek he was still slated to try it.
He isn’t the only major name back in the X Games spotlight.
White, coming off an Olympic gold medal in Vancouver, will return to the vert ramp from a year off spent focusing on snowboarding.
He’s entered in Skateboard Vert, where he won his first summer X Games gold in 2007, and Skateboard Vert Best Trick.
On the women’s side, Ashley Fiolek, the deaf motocross rider who has quickly gone from teen phenom to X Games veteran, will seek her second straight gold in Moto X.
And athletes including Kevin Robinson and Bob Burnquist will take on the X Games’ now-near legendary mega ramp, where skateboarders and BMX riders annually challenge gravity and sanity.
After several years of indoor competition on the mega ramp, athletes will have to deal with the wind as they fly through the sky over the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The Coliseum is part of a new layout for the games this year, which have settled into semi-permanent status with seven years in the Los Angeles area.
Events have in recent years been split between the Home Depot Center in Carson and the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, but in 2010 the games will virtually all be centered in a revitalized downtown Los Angeles. Most of the events and the games’ carnival-style village will be at the L.A. Live entertainment and sports complex, where ramps have been erected at the Staples Center and next door at the Nokia Theater.
Bigger events, including Pastrana’s Moto X Freestyle, will be held a short hop down the freeway at the Coliseum, instead of miles to the south in Carson.