Sixteen-year-old skate sensation Nyjah Huston lived up to all the hype leading into X Games 17, edging out Brazilian skater Luan Oliveira and defending champ Ryan Sheckler to top the podium in Saturday's Skateboard Street finals.
Huston, who first popped up at the X Games as an 11-year-old in 2006 and won silver in both 2009 and 2010, shed his signature dreads in the lead-up to X Games and seems to have emerged with a new strength of purpose. Bangers in his bag of tricks for finals included a kickflip backside tailslide bigspin, a backside 360 lipside down the big rail, a kickflip from the concrete hip to 5-0 grind down the backside of the hubba ledge, and a last-minute hardflip off the roof to flat.
"I didn't try that hardflip at all in practice," Huston said, just after the finals. "That was just something I went for."
It's been an epic year for Huston, who has also won the first three stops of the 2011 Street League series.
"This one's the best yet, just because I won in Street League last year," Huston said. "I know how that feels. At X Games I came up short for the last two years, so this win is definitely the best feeling yet."
His final score of 91.66 just beat out Oliveira (91.00) and Sheckler (89.00). Call it a changing of the guard: At 21, Sheckler (who holds the distinction of once being the youngest athlete ever to win X Games gold as a 13-year-old in 2003) was the oldest skater on today's podium.
This was Oliveira's X Games debut, after coming up on the world stage in recent years. He won the 2011 Copenhagen Pro in June, his second consecutive win at one of the biggest international skate contests, and -- after busting big hardflips over the bump to bar and switch frontside flips down the big stair set all day -- promises to be an X Games threat for many years to come.
"It was really close," said Huston, who is becoming known for his staggering understatements.
Chaz Ortiz missed the podium in fourth place with 89.00, and Ryan Decenzo finished fifth after dominating in the elimination round.