Mariah Duran captured her first X Games gold medal Saturday, on a skateboard street course under the glass roof of U.S. Bank Stadium.
But the skater from Albuquerque, N.M., laid the groundwork for her winning run much earlier in the day.
Duran finished 10th at last year’s X Games, undone by runaway nerves. Since then, she has embraced daily meditation. By spending an hour every morning counting her blessings, she has seen them multiply, just like the string of top-flight tricks that brought Duran the biggest victory of her career.
A second-run score of 87.66 gave the 21-year-old the crown in Women’s Skateboard Street. She edged defending gold medalist Aori Nishimura, who was competing for only the second time since tearing her left ACL last fall. Nishimura took the silver medal with 86.00 points and Alexis Sablone (84.00) earned bronze.
“I take an hour at the beginning of every day, just for myself,” said Duran, the X Games silver medalist in 2016. “I put the phone away and think about where I’m at and where I could be.
“It’s very humbling. It makes you appreciate what you have so much more. It’s been helpful for me, to remind myself not to put too much pressure on myself, but just enjoy what I’m doing.”
In Albuquerque, Duran still enjoys trying out new tricks in the skate parks and drainage ditches where she learned to skate with her brothers. A full-time skater, she augments a full schedule of competitions with appearing in films and pushing the progress of a sport with growing opportunities for women.
Saturday’s competition gave eight skaters the chance to showcase their best tricks on a course packed with rails, ledges, stairs, ramps and flats. Each got three runs, with the top score counting.
Duran wobbled a bit on her first run before her inner peace took hold. She showed off her high style on her second, laying down the score to beat with a series of perfectly executed flips and spins.
Then she had to wait it out, which was almost as nerve-racking as the run itself.
“The nerves never go away completely, but as long as you trust your skating, you should be all right,” she said. “On the second run, I controlled my breathing and focused on every single trick.
“I knew it was still anybody’s game, because so many of these girls are so good. I was nervous, but I stayed positive.”
Nishimura, 16, had knee surgery in October and spent the winter doing rehabilitation in California. She resumed competing at the Dew Tour in June and was the early leader Saturday, with a first-run score of 85.00.
She followed with an 86.00, making daring tricks look easy with her balance and grace. As the last skater to go, Nishimura tried to ramp up the difficulty on her final run to surpass Duran, but she came off the board repeatedly.
“I had high hopes coming in,” she said. “For just my second contest, I feel good about how it went.”