Bestwick earns record ninth X Games gold
AUSTIN, Texas -- Jamie Bestwick won his ninth consecutive gold medal in BMX Vert on opening night of X Games Austin on Thursday, riding in the shadow of the Texas State Capitol building.
Bestwick held off challenges from Simon Tabron and Dennis McCoy, who took silver and bronze, respectively.
"When I broke the record last year, that was stressful," said Bestwick, who set the X Games mark for the most consecutive wins last year with his eighth victory in a row at X Games Barcelona. "I really wanted that record. Everything after that is just seeing how long it can hold up."
It will hold up for at least another year, thanks to big tricks like a front flip flair, alley-oop tailwhip turndown, flair tailwhip and 540 one-foot seatgrab combo. A score of 92.66 on his first of two runs held up, leaving him to take a victory lap in front of the estimated 12,000 fans who showed up in person in downtown Austin.
"That first run was pretty special because that's the smoothest run I've ever pulled, but these guys were bringing the heat," Bestwick said. "What a contest tonight. It was pretty amazing. ... This is how we kick the party off X Games-style in Texas."
Bestwick, who won his first X Games medal in 1996, now has 13 career X Games golds. At age 42, he was the second-oldest rider in the BMX Vert field behind McCoy, 47, who landed a 900 on Thursday night, becoming the oldest person to land that trick. McCoy won his last X Games medal 17 years ago, and his bronze on Thursday marks the longest stretch between medals in XG history. With Tabron, 40, earning the silver medal, this marks the first time in XG history that the top three athletes were all 40 or older.
Bestwick said he still feels at the top of his game and has no plans to slow down.
"I hope I'm inspiring my generation of riders, and younger riders, too," Bestwick said. "I hope they look at me and see that if you keep working hard and taking care of yourself and enjoying the sport, there can be longevity in it."
Tabron, McCoy, Stevie McCann, Coco Zurita, Mykel Larrin, Chad Kagy and Vince Bryon each gave Bestwick a run for it in the finals, with every rider in the field posting scores of at least 85. Bestwick said he eagerly awaits the day when he meets his match at X Games.
"Part of me looks forward to passing the torch and would like to see one of the younger guys step up and take it, because I want to see my sport progress and see some other guys run with it," he said. "But another part of me still really enjoys winning ... I'm going to keep riding my best for as long as I can."
BMX Vert Final
Jimmy Wilkins won one for the rising generation of vert skateboarders on Thursday night, bringing tricks like an ollie 540 to edge silver medalist Sandro Dias and bronze medalist Mitchie Brusco. It was the second X Games appearance for the 20-year-old skater, who finished 14th in Los Angeles in 2013.
Wilkins said he'd previously estimated his chances of winning at "none," but he gave it all he had in the Texas heat.
After the medal ceremony, Wilkins explained his initial loss for words following his victory.
"It's both shock and anxiety," said Wilkins, who became just the seventh different skater to win gold on the vert ramp in the 20-year history of X Games. "I'm so happy."
"The ollie 540 is something I'd been working on at Tony Hawk's ramp and has started to feel really natural," Wilkins said.
Hawk pioneered the trick on vert and has been a mentor to Wilkins, as have many of the riders in Thursday's final.
"It felt really good to bring it here, knowing Tony was watching. It's always fun to ride with the homies -- I look up to and have been supported by all of these guys -- and it's cool to be here with all my friends in a different place and on such a big stage. It's all a bit overwhelming, to be honest."
Dias led after the first of three runs with an 85; Wilkins tied him in Run 2, then posted a score of 87 in his final run with just one rider -- eight-time gold medalist Pierre-Luc Gagnon -- left to drop. Wilkins watched on in disbelief as Gagnon fell before the buzzer.
In the biggest surprise of the night, Bucky Lasek -- who won all four global X Games events in 2013 -- finished in last place in the finals, still nursing a recent elbow injury. Lasek, 41, wore a T-shirt that said, "I'm hurt not old" on the front and "Maybe a little old" on the back.
"There are a lot of guys out there that I've helped out a long the way, and Jimmy and Mitchie definitely come to mind," Lasek said. "I've known them since they were little groms and have always stood behind them, but when we jump up on the ramp there's nobody I'd rather beat than those younger skaters. ... I always want to see those guys rise to the occasion, but I would have preferred to be at my best when they did it."
X Games competition continues on Friday at Austin's Circuit of the Americas.