The preliminary round of the first-ever Street League contest went down Friday here in Glendale, Arizona. Twenty two of the world's best skateboarders competed* for six of the seven slots in tomorrow's final. Spectators on hand for the closed-door event got to see the new format, scoring and competition style in action. Every pro on the course stands to win some dough but only one will grab the $150,000 top prize.
The six skater who qualified for the final are:
1. Chris Cole 83 points 95% consistency
2. Shane O'Neill 79.1 points 81% consistency
3. Paul Rodriguez 76 points 81% consistency
4. Sean Malto 75.5 points 95% consistency
5. Nyjah Huston 73.2 points 76% consistency
6. Chaz Ortiz 71.8 points 81% consistency
The aforementioned finalists will be joined by one more last-chance qualifier to be determined early Saturday afternoon when the show really begins; that's when the stands of the Jobing.com Arena will be filled with fans and any of the Street Leaguers who didn't make the cut today can toss themselves down the largest obstacle section of the course for a shot at grabbing that coveted seventh slot in the final.
Watching the prelims, it was exciting to see the "ISX" instant scoring system in action going into the last of today's four heats. Greg Lutzka, Torey Pudwill, Peter Ramondetta, Ryan Sheckler and Eric Koston had all been poised to make the finals having skated solidly on each of three course sections. However, in the fourth heat, Cole and Malto kept grabbing points with consistent, technical tricks and quickly surpassed the point totals of skaters that had done well in previous rounds.
When the dust settled, Cole had the highest score of the day with a nearly untouchable performance and a 95% consistency in tricks landed out of all the ones he tried. In the line section, where skaters hit a ledge over a gap and then a 6-stair with rail and hubbas, Cole pulled a fakie flip down the first gap followed by a fakie back lip down the rail. He also ollied over the rail into a Willy grind and did a slew of other tricks to pull ahead of the pack.
I asked Cole if Saturday's crowd would motivate or intimidate him. "I'll be more nervous," he said. "But with the crowd here, I'll also be more motivated to toss myself down stuff, too."
Without an audience (the prelims were not open to the public) the arena was eerily quiet most of the day with just the sounds of boards on concrete and announcer, Felix Arguelles' running commentary as a soundtrack. Something about the whole vibe reminded me of the patient anticipation of a golf tournament. With rumors of a sold-out venue tomorrow though, I imagine the scene will be a whole lot different. Keep checking back as we'll be bringing you a full wrap up of the event and an exclusive video capturing rider perspectives and behind the scenes moments.
*Though scheduled to appear, Luan Oliveira and Marc Johnson weren't in the contest Friday.