To commemorate two decades of competition and innovation, X Games Austin compiled a series of milestones titled “20 Years 20 Firsts”. Fans could vote on their favorite, and the winner was Elena Hight stomping the first ever double backside alley-oop rodeo.
The list inspired me to create one of my own. Since this year’s X Games marks my fifteenth year of following the competition (I started watching in 1999), I decided to countdown my top fifteen firsts at X Games.
15. Jake Brown’s 720 in Skateboard Big Air (2007) – The subsequent fall overshadowed his history-making achievement, and while the horror will forever be etched in my mind, Jake’s daring trick deserves to be remembered as well.
14. TJ Schiller’s double cork 1620 in Ski Big Air (2011) – I used to be able to keep up with the math, but then TJ came along and made me wish I had a calculator. Although he may have had to settle for second, he raised the bar for freeskiing.
13. Eito Yasutoko becomes the first Asian gold medalist in Men’s Vert Skating (2000) – He was the first Asian I saw win an X Games event (I missed seeing Ayumi Kawasaki the previous year). It gave me something to relate to and proved that action sports is truly global.
12. Tucker Hibbert wins the first Snocross race at X (2000) – Never did I think I would be into snowmobiles, but watching 15-year-old Tucker become the youngest X Games gold medalist, beating out his father in the process, got me interested.
Photo by Aaron Kores/ESPN.com
11. Ashley Fiolek becomes the first deaf X Games medalist in Women’s Moto X Super X (2009) – Ashley’s story is so inspiring and to see her win showed that with hard work, determination, and skill, you can overcome great odds.
10. Elena Hight’s double backside alley-oop rodeo in Women’s Snowboard Superpipe (2013) – Elena’s achievement proved that gender doesn’t matter, just innovation. The fact that she won the vote is an encouraging step for female action sports athletes in overcoming the glass ceiling.
9. Zacky Warden’s bike flip backflip to late tailwhip in BMX Big Air (2013) – There are so many things going on in that trick combo that it’s hard to break it down without slow-mo. The creativity and technicality is mind-blowing.
8. Torstein Horgmo’s triple flip in Snowboard Big Air (2011) – Although it may have been more flip than cork, no one thought a triple anything was possible. Torstein took the chance and set in motion the events that would change snowboarding.
7. Fabiola da Silva and Ayumi Kawasaki compete in the Men’s Vert Skating (2001) – Thanks to the Fabiola Rule, both ladies’ scores were judged against the men. Although neither qualified for the finals, it opened doors and foreshadowed Fabiola’s future boundary-shattering accomplishments.
Ayumi Kawasaki in the prelims. Photo by Bakke/Shazamm/ESPN (from Skatelog)
6. Caleb Wyatt’s no-handed to no-footed backflip on snow in Moto X Best Trick (2004) – As backflips were starting to become the norm, Caleb took it to a whole new level while on tricky terrain. He shut up all the haters, and heck the whole thing even inspired poetry.
5. Kevin Robinson’s double flair in BMX Vert Best Trick (2006) – Kevin is best known for his flair, and now he’ll be immortalized for doing the first double flair. The highlight of watching it was telling my mom that this is where the rider we saw a few years back is and having her root for Kevin too.
4. Vicki Golden becomes the first female freestyle motocross competitor in Moto X Best Whip (2013) – When I got into action sports, I fantasized about being the first female FMX rider at the X Games. People told me it wasn’t possible for any woman to ride with the boys, but Vicki proved them wrong.
3. Travis Pastrana’s double backflip in Moto X Best Trick (2006) – This was the first time I remember being completely unsure of the outcome because a double backflip on a dirt bike seemed so far-fetched. The suspense, the glorious payout, and the mutual admiration of both fans and non-fans alike made this one of the best moments ever.
Photo by Christian Pondella/Red Bull Photo Files (from Motorcycle-USA)
2. Travis Pastrana wins the first Moto X gold (1999) – I had to put Travis twice because if it weren’t for him, I would have never gotten into FMX and be where I’m at. He was the perfect ambassador for this new sport, and the rest is history.
1. Tony Hawk’s 900 in Skateboard Best Trick (1999) – This was the other moment from X Games that changed my life forever. The sheer determination, coupled with the support from his fellow skaters and the disregard for competition rules, summed up what action sports was all about and inspired me to never give up.