Alex Hiam got the invite four weeks ago to his first X Games. The Australian BMX rookie walked away Friday night as a gold medalist in Dave Mirra's BMX Park Best Trick.
Hiam, 22, nailed a double tailwhip more spectacular than it sounds. He leapt with his bike onto a vaulted plexiglass ramp, planting the front tire and completing the bike's second rotation while his foot rested on top of the front tire. His first X Games run ever stunned fans in the lower bowl of U.S. Bank Stadium.
It shocked Hiam, too.
"The level of tricks that were out there, I didn't think I could win it," Hiam said. "I'm pretty surprised."
His X Games debut couldn't have been scripted better. Hiam, from Brisbane, Australia, grew up playing Mirra's video games, riding his bikes and idolizing the late BMX legend. A preteen Hiam even met Mirra while riding at his former training facility in North Carolina. The BMX Park Best Trick event was named in Mirra's honor following his suicide in 2016.
"My first bike was a Mirra 360, 16-inch," Hiam said. "Just seeing how he handled the bike, just his energy and stuff. He's my biggest idol."
'High Air' goes even higher
Builders raised the stakes on Friday night's Moto X QuarterPipe High Air. During construction, the landing ramp was beefed up by a few feet. It doesn't sound like much, but X Games coordinators believed a 24-foot tall dirt landing would entice motocross competitors to fly even higher than last year's 29.5-foot record set by Colby Raha.
Three riders eclipsed that mark Friday, including California native Axell Hodges, who took home his first X Games gold medal with a jump of 34 feet, 3 inches. Raha won silver with a leap of 33 feet and two inches. Canadian Kris Foster had a nasty crash in practice Thursday, but he rode hurt Friday and finished sixth.
Milou shatters expectations
Before Vincent Milou's top run in Friday's skateboard street qualifier, an ESPN broadcaster openly wondered if the 20-year-old French skater was "just happy to be here" during his X Games debut.
Milou shattered expectations with a series of flips and grinds that vaulted him to a top score of 91.33, ahead of second-place Jagger Eaton's 88.33. Milou earned a bid to Sunday afternoon's final, which will include Rochester's own Alec Majerus — the contest's reigning silver medalist.
Motocross in the Olympics?
Jackson Strong took another step toward becoming the face of motocross with his sixth X Games medal, winning silver in the Moto X Freestyle competition. But as skateboarding gets introduced to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Strong said he doesn't want to see dirt bikes head in the same direction.
"Nah, I hope not," Strong said. "I'm pretty comfy here. This is it. This is family. I don't think I'd really want freestyle as a sport to move in that direction. I think it fits right at home here and this is where it's going to stay."
Frenchman Tom Pages won his first Moto X Freestyle gold medal, edging Jackson's 90 with a score of 92.33.