So yesterday Laura and I decided to head up to Aspen to watch the Xgames. We left Dillon early in the morning so we could watch slopestyle and then we stuck around for the day to watch big air that night.
Xgames is unlike any other event, and this year I got a taste of what it is like for Laura when she is watching me compete. Obviously I wasn’t in the event, but I had the pleasure of watching all my friends from the bottom. It is a totally different experience watching rather than competing and it was definitely difficult to watch at times.
As an athlete, when you are in a competition you are so focused and all you are thinking about is the run, or trick, you are about to do. You sideline all thoughts of anything that can go wrong and you visualize your run being stomped perfectly. I know, when I compete, I do watch the event either from the top or at the bottom, but it is somewhat of a distant viewing as I am still putting a lot of thought into the tricks I need to land to get a good score.
As a spectator, which is something I haven’t done too many times, you are literally watching gladiators go to war. Yesterday the light was pretty damn bad for slopestyle. It was flat light and very hard to distinguish any definition in the snow. But regardless athletes were still throwing some of the biggest tricks there is to be thrown in freeskiing. Slopestyle saw a lot of heavy crashes and it made me sick to watch some of them. Henrick’s crash is one that stands out and I hope he is all good. Due to the challenging conditions during slopestyle yesterday, more people seemed to be crashing than landing, and some of the crashes were not just a slide out with snow down your pants, they were explosions on the landings.
It is always hard to watch your friends crash but I think it is harder to watch as a spectator. I’m not saying seeing my friends crash while I am competing is easy. You are obviously worried about them but ultimately it gets sidelined and you have to put the image of them crashing to the back of your head so you can focus on the run or trick you need to do. As a spectator there is no need for you to push the image out of your head, so as each person drops, the thought of the crash from an earlier competitor, is still right there in you head and you are hoping something similar doesn’t happen again to another friend.
I didnt take any photos yesterday but found this on Google images of Gus Kenworthy. As you can see it was pretty flat light out there.
Big air was a similar to slopestyle, in terms of crashing. It wasn’t because the light was bad or because the jump was bad, its because in freeskiing we have pushed the sport so far that with the tricks we try, you either land them and ride away perfectly, or you go down hard. I had the same feeling watching big air as I did watching slopestyle. I was nervous for all my friends and just wanted them to make it out alive but at the same time I wanted them to put on an epic show. It was crazy how hard some people were slamming.
Bobby slammed super hard on a switch triple 12 and his helmet explode. The whole crowd, 48000 people, went silent, watching to see if he was going to get up. He did, and to everyone’s amazement he got another helmet and went back to the top to complete the finals. As a spectator, I thought it was a questionable decision and he probably should have chilled as head injuries are a super serious matter, but as an athlete I know exactly what frame of mind he was in. I know because last year in slope training I hit my head and shattered my helmet, but because of all the adrenaline, the crowd and the drive to do well at one of the biggest events in the world, I went back to the top to try and stick my runs, which is exactly what Bobby did. Bobby went on to get the silver medal and 100% deserved it after some of the tricks he put down.
Pretty serious helmet smash
There were countless cashes in big air and even if they looked like a yard sale on the landing, with skis, poles and even goggles flying all over the place, the majority of the athletes walked away from them with bumps and bruises and not a serious injury.I think Alex Schlopy may of hurt his shoulder at a switch 1980 attempt (i can’t even fathom spinning that much) and I am hoping he is ok.
It just goes to show how crazy and how difficult the sport has become. Its a fine line the athletes walk between winning and ending a season and to be honest, I think I like being in the role of an athlete more than a spectator. I was more nervous as a spectator than I am as a competitor. I am definitely nervous competing but it is a different type of nervous and I definitely like them more than spectator nerves.
Congratulations to everyone who managed to stick their runs and got up on the podium and also I hope everyone who has crashed or injured themselves during the Xgames makes a full recovery so they are back to doing what they love in no time!