Elliot Sloan says good luck trying to copy him. Jackson Strong just wants you to watch. Nate Adams doesn’t know how anyone keeps a secret anymore.
These X Games daredevils can’t agree on how they chase medals.
What is certain is they, along with more than 200 talented peers, start defying gravity Thursday night out in front of U.S. Bank Stadium. Minneapolis’ second year as summer X Games host begins with a free kickoff event at 5 p.m. near the Downtown East Plaza.
The weekend’s first competitions, Skateboard and BMX Vert, are scheduled to start at 9 p.m. Thursday, weather permitting, with events running through Sunday.
Attendees are guaranteed to see something they have never witnessed before. The X Games annually offers a grand stage for skaters, BMX and motocross riders to showcase their own personal futures for action sports by unveiling never-before-seen tricks. When you see their creations is the topic of debate. Some want fans and judges to be first witnesses at the X Games, while others archive trials on social media.
“I don’t invent all new tricks every year, but you’re always improving, learning new ways to do bigger or better tricks,” said Adams, the most decorated X Games athlete on a dirt bike with 19 medals. “Some guys are learning double flips, triple flips, front flips. Now some guys are doing tricks with their front flips. It’s a constant progression.”
Sloan, a three-time X Games gold medalist, isn’t hiding his latest innovation to skateboarding.
A kickflip 720 — two full rotations while flipping the board underneath his feet — off the 82-foot tall MegaRamp will be Sloan’s goal Saturday. There it is, competitors. The reigning Big Air gold medalist just publicly set this year’s bar with a trick he’s never landed in competition. Beat it at your own risk.
“By all means, if anybody can do that trick — I applaud them,” Sloan said. “It’s one of the hardest tricks I’ve done and, like I said, I’m the only one to do it [in practice]. If anyone else can do it, hats off to them.”
Strong, also a three-time X Games gold medalist, won’t reveal his plans on his dirt bike. He doesn’t want to let his competitors, including reigning Moto X Best Trick gold medalist Levi Sherwood, know what they are facing.
The Australian stuntman is driven by last year’s silver medal in Best Trick. His double back-flip with a broken left wrist was one point short of Sherwood’s winning score.
Now healthy, Strong has one declaration before his Best Trick and Moto X Freestyle competitions.
“We’re going to lift the roof off this place on Friday and Saturday night,” Strong vowed.
Twenty-four hours before fans strolled into Thursday’s “X Fest” in the stadium plaza, Strong walked barefoot across much of the 8,500 cubic feet of dirt inside U.S. Bank Stadium. He left no stone unturned before attempting his veiled trick that, Strong says, he has never landed — not even in practice — before Saturday’s Moto X Best Trick.
Fearless still isn’t the right word to describe him, Strong insists.
That’s where Sloan agrees. Before Saturday’s Big Air competition, Sloan said he has only landed a kickflip 720 a handful of times during practice on the MegaRamp. No matter where his brain goes to chase the newest trick, Sloan’s anxiety persists when descending up to 40 miles per hour over a 60-foot gap.
“It doesn’t get less scary,” Sloan said.
Sloan, 29, has found ways to manage nerves entering his 10th summer X Games.
“Whether it’s meditating, breath work,” Sloan said. “It’s a lot of pressure, because not only do I want to do it myself, I want to do it for the crowd and there’s the risk factor of the obvious.”
During Wednesday’s practice runs, echoes of free-falling skateboards and bodies reverberated inside U.S. Bank Stadium. That’s what Sloan’s “obvious” sounds like. Crashing is also the sound necessary for creation; the sound needed to push the limits of the X Games entering its 24th summer.
So could you blame Strong for not wanting to tip his own hand? He has estimated “countless hours” imagining, planning and practicing his newest motocross innovation.
Adams, the 34-year-old decorated dirt bike veteran, is awed by Strong and the new generation bringing motocross tricks to new heights. Action sports have come a long way since Adams and Travis Pastrana dueled a decade ago.
Even in the mid-2000s, Adams was hiding key creations — such as his lazy boy flip — so he could best Pastrana in competition.
“Ten years ago, it wasn’t too hard to do that,” Adams said of hiding tricks. “Now with social media, guys have to have everyone on the same plan; camera guy can’t leak anything and all that. Still, pretty much every year you’re seeing new stuff come out in the X Games.”
This year shouldn’t be any different.