Ready to fly high: Buyten prepares to defend X Games title
Even after nine years, Carson Valley resident Matt Buyten has to take a step back every August to brace himself.
The 1998 Douglas High School graduate has established himself as one of the elite names in motocross over the years.
His dominance of one particular event, however, has made him a main fixture at the ESPN X games, which can best be described as the Olympics of the Adventure Sports world.
“It’s different than any other event out there,” Buyten said. “You prepare the same for it and ride as best as you can, but the week itself is completely different.
“The pressure definitely ramps up in your mind. At some point, you’re trying to do what you always do, and then you look over, see the TV cameras and realize that the whole world is watching.
“It’s a lot of pressure, but as much as possible, I just try to be myself and roll with whatever happens.”
It’s a strategy that has worked out just fine so far.
Buyten has won X Games gold three times in the Step Up event – which can be best described as high jump on a bike.
Competitors get a 30-foot run at a 12-foot near-vertical wall, which they vault off in attempt to clear a bar set as tall as a three-story building. The entire spectacle is bottled up with the confines of the indoor Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“It’s a great atmosphere,” Buyten said. “The place is full and it gets pretty loud. It’s a bigger crowd than we see the rest of the year and with TV you know your buddies back home are watching.
“It’s progressed as an event over the years,” Buyten said. “It went from two-stroke engines to four-stroke and then you saw the heights really bump up. It’s been fun to be a part of as it has developed.”
It’s not an event, though, that lends itself well to practice.
“You really take a beating,” Buyten said with a laugh. “It’s not something you even really want to practice. I went out to practice this morning (Monday) and my back is killing me right now.
“Just landing the bike from the height really takes it’s toll. Last year I practiced too much. I did six practice jumps and I was pretty sore heading in. This year, I don’t think I’m going to practice again until the event.
“It really comes down to your confidence on the bike. The rest is just how far you let the adrenaline take you.”
Buyten prevailed in a sudden-death final last year over Ronnie Renner. He won his first X gold in 2003 and was part of an epic 17-attempt battle with Jeremy McGrath in 2004 during which he dislocated his shoulder and still landed several more jumps. He finished with a silver medal that year.
He’s also won several other silver and bronze medals over the years.
The Step Up event is set for today. The finals will be televised on ESPN, ESPN 3D and ESPN3.com starting at 4 p.m.
Buyten will also compete in Speed & Style on Saturday with televised broadcast beginning at 8:45 p.m.
Speed & Style combines a speed race course with freestyle trick jumps scored for style off a metal ramp in the middle of the track. Buyten placed seventh in the event last year.
Carson City resident Mike Mason is also set to compete in both the Step Up and Speed & Style events.