What to Watch For at X Games Austin 2016
Moto X Step Up, Thursday at *7:30 p.m.
Last year Ronnie Renner won his seventh gold medal in Step Up to kick off the week's competitions at X Games Austin 2015. He'll be looking for a repeat performance when the rope drops on X Games Austin 2016 on Thursday night. For more of what to look for in the events of the final year of X Games in Austin, check out the rest of this gallery. *All times listed are CT
Harley-Davidson Flat-Track, Thursday at 9 p.m.
Remember the heartache? Jared Mees led Harley-Davidson Flat-Track Racing for 18 of 20 laps at X Games Austin 2015. With a 2.34-second lead and just two turns to go, Mees had gold. Then he didn't. A nut blew off the bike, causing the sprocket to disconnect from the hub as he exited turn 2 on the final lap. Mees coasted to a stop, watching helplessly as Bryan Smith, pictured here, flew by to take the win. Mees finished 11th. Mees has won three of the past four AMA Pro Flat Track GNC1 championships and comes into this race a clear favorite, despite his loss last year.
Skateboard Street Ams, Friday at 2:30 p.m.
The concept behind Skateboard Street Ams is simple: A series of regional qualifying events for amateur street skateboarding takes place around the U.S. in the year leading up to X Games Austin. The winner from each stop receives an invite to compete in a final in front of the X Games crowd. X Games Austin 2015 Am winner, Tyson Bowerbank, earned himself a return spot 2016. Former Big Air grom phenom, the now 15-year-old Jagger Eaton, also won a qualifying stop and a spot to compete in the event.
Skate Vert, Friday at 4 p.m.
The average age of the X Games SKB Vert podium hasn't dipped below 25 since 2005, but there are three teenagers in the field in 2016. Still, Bucky Lasek, 43, and 2015 gold medalist Pierre-Luc Gagnon, 36, (pictured here) are the gold favorites.The question on everyone's mind is if Lasek, who won all four Skateboard Vert gold medals in 2013 but failed to make the podium in 2014 and 2015, can regain his former glory now that his attention isn't split by Rally, which is not being contested this year in Austin.
BMX Vert, Friday at 5:30 p.m.
This is the first time in nearly a decade that Jamie Bestwick isn't the defending gold medalist in BMX Vert. Bestwick claims that he felt a sense of relief when Vince Byron, pictured here, put down the winning run at in 2015 and feels rejuvenated by no longer having to defend his gold medal streak. "I think you ride differently when you're the defending champion than when you're chasing him," says Bestwick. "It's lit a fire under me, because I have nothing to lose." Byron is bracing for a battle to defend his gold. "I know that to do it again I'm going to have to dig deep," he says, "because Jamie is still, incredibly, at the top of his game. He's beatable, but he might also go and win the next nine in a row."
Moto X Freestyle, Friday at 6 p.m.
In 2013, Taka Higashino earned his third consecutive X Games Freestyle gold, joining Travis Pastrana as the only athletes to collect three XG Freestyle titles. The event hasn't been held at X Games since, so Higashino will finally get a chance to make it four straight Freestyle wins here in Austin on Friday. He'll have to beat out Red Bull X-Fighters champions Clinton Moore, Josh Sheehan and Tom Pagés to do it, though.
Skateboard Big Air, Friday at 9:15 p.m.
Brazilian skateboarder Bob Burnquist will compete in his 25th X Games when he drops in at X Games Austin 2016. That will make him the only athlete to participate in every X Games summer event. "I don't know if I should celebrate or cry," Burnquist says. "You start getting old and your friends are all gone." Burnquist currently has 30 X Games medals, the most in history. He aims to add to his collection on Friday.
Women's Skateboard Street, Saturday at 11 a.m.
Not only did MIT graduate Alexis Sablone win the gold medal in Austin last year, she had the two highest scoring runs of the Women's Street event. With former gold medalists Leticia Bufoni and Lacey Baker in the game, the podium is never a safe bet, but when Sablone shows up at X, she usually goes home with a medal.
BMX Park, Saturday at 12 p.m.
Though Austin native Chase Hawk, pictured here, won BMX park in 2014, he is not the favorite to win in 2016. This does not mean, however, that when he drops in on Saturday he won't get the biggest cheers from the crowd. Austin loves Hawk. The city even named a day after him: August 16 is Chase Hawk Day. Look for Dennis Enarson to shine. He's a seven-time medalist between X Games Street and Park (double silver in 2010 and 2011), and podiumed in all four BMX comps in 2015. He has yet to win a gold in his nine X Games appearances. This could be his year.
Mirra BMX Park Best Trick, Saturday at 2:10 p.m.
As part of X Games' celebration of the late Dave Mirra's life and lasting impact on action sports, a special Best Trick contest will be held after the regular BMX Park event. Eight athletes culled from the Park roster will vie for a special gold medal designed in the shape of a pedal.
BMX Street, Saturday at 3 p.m.
BMX Street was last contested at X Games Austin 2014. A lot has changed in two years, and new names are on the athlete list, but Garrett Reynolds, pictured here, remains the decided favorite. He owns seven of the eight BMX Street gold medals awarded at X Games and has won many of those by a wide margin. There is one exception to this rule so far: Chad Kerley beat Reynolds at X Game LA 2013.
Women's Skateboard Park, Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Lizzie Armanto (pictured) dominated Women's Skateboard Park the last time it was contested, at X Games Barcelona 2013, but 11-year-old Brighton Zeuner is hot on her heels. The 4'8", 73-pound phenom finished second behind Armanto at Vert Attack X in April. If she wins here, she'll become the youngest X Games gold medalist in history.
Men's Skateboard Street, Saturday at 5 p.m.
Can anyone beat Nyjah Huston? Possibly, maybe. He's only won one of the four Street League contests in 2015, and finished off the podium in 4th place at Tampa Pro in March. The seven-time X Games Street gold medalist is still the favorite, but he's finally showing some dings in his armor. All eyes will also be on Real Street 2016 gold medalist, Chris Joslin, when he drops for his first-ever X Games run on Saturday. In a stacked field of heavy-hitters, the newly-turned Plan B pro is predicted by no less talents than Ryan Sheckler and Chris Cole to stand out from the crowd.
BMX Big Air, Saturday at 7:15 p.m.
In 2015, Morgan Wade earned two X Games medals, Big Air silver and Big Air Doubles. The Texas native holds the above-the-coping BMX record at 23'3", set at XG Barcelona 2013, and says he's bringing new material to X Games Austin 2016, including a 360 flip no-hander (corked) over the gap. Meanwhile, Colton Satterfield, pictured here, is attempting to become the first BMX Big Air athlete to three-peat. In 2015, he landed a double flair on the quarterpipe for the gold-medal win. He was just the second person to stick the trick at X Games and the first to do it in Big Air. He's looking to throw the double flair again, but with much greater amplitude this time around.
Moto X Best Trick, Saturday at 9 p.m.
At XG Austin 2016, six athletes will compete in Best Trick, Freestyle and QuarterPipe: Taka Higashino, Clinton Moore, Tom Pagés, Josh Sheehan, Levi Sherwood and Mat Rebeaud. None of the six has earned Best Trick gold. Sheehan is landing double backflip variations on the Nitro Circus tour, but to a modified airbag landing. Look for Pagés to pull out a 720 and Jackson Strong to try a frontflip variation in their quests for glory.
Skate/BMX Big Air Doubles, Sunday at 11 a.m.
In 2013, BMX Big Air competitor Zack Warden won three of four competitions. In 2014 he was forced to skip the X Games due to injury. In 2015 he returned, with a cold, and finished alongside skateboard partner Tom Schaar with a bronze BMX Big Air Doubles. Can the team best the 2015 gold medalist power duo, Morgan Wade (pictured here) and Bob Burnquist this year?
BMX Dirt, Sunday at 1 p.m.
The first ten X Games Dirt competitions (1995-2004) were won by eight different athletes, but since Dirt returned to the X Games in 2013 there has been only one gold medalist: Kyle Baldock. He is going for a four-peat here in Austin.
Men's Skateboard Park, Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Only two skateboarders have bested eight-time X Games medalist (five gold, three silver) Pedro Barros in Skateboard Park, and they're in the 2016 field. Raven Tershy won in Los Angeles 2011, and Austin 2015 gold medalist Curren Caples knocked Barros to silver at Munich 2013. Both say Barros is still the man to beat.
Moto X QuarterPipe and Best Whip, Sunday at 4 p.m.
It was fitting that Tom Pagés, the French motocross rider who helped bring Moto X QuarterPipe to the X Games in 2015, won the inaugural event. This year Clinton Moore, who bested Pagés at the 2015 Red Bull X-Fighters championship, is gunning for that No. 1 spot. The QuarterPipe event will run concurrently with the fan-vote Moto X Best Whip event to close out the 2016 X Games in its final year in Austin.