Commentary

NOT THE X GAMES. JUST A BUNCH OF ATHLETES FLASHING MAD SKILLS

Updated: July 10, 2012, 2:27 PM ET
By Eddie Matz

CALEB WYATT

MOTO X BEST TRICK

AGE 28

BASE Medford, Ore.

BARE FACT To save money while building a

house, Caleb and his wife and son have been living

in a 29-foot motor home.

When your birthday is Jan. 1, you get used to

being overlooked. But even a lifetime of training

couldn't prepare Wyatt for the pub that didn't

come his way after he landed one of the biggest

tricks in FMX history. Back on April 25, 2002,

Wyatt became the first to land a backflip on a

250cc motorcycle. "I could stop now," he says,

"and be happy with what I've done." Meanwhile,

he's still waiting for sponsors to call. Still waiting

for the TV spots. Still waiting for the loot

landed instead by big-name riders who quickly

remastered the flip. Hitting a double backflip

might end the skid. Winter X gold would too.

"That would be gigantic," Wyatt says. Enough

to make a guy do flips.

SARAH BURKE

SKI SUPERPIPE JAM (Demo)

AGE 21 BASE Mammoth, Calif.

BARE FACT Before becoming a pro skier, Burke played forward on her high school basketball team in Midland, Ontario.

Burke was still in high school when she learned that men's Big Air would be added to the 1999 Winter X Games. Already a prime player among female freeskiers, she fired into action, booting a computer in her high school library to send a "Why-not-us?" e-mail to X Games organizers (she didn't have Internet access at home). The response: "Wait." So for three years, Burke took precomp test runs for the men's freeski events at X, pestered for equal slope rights and waited. But persistence pays. Women's Ski Superpipe will debut as a demo at 2004 Winter X. "It's definitely a step forward," says Burke, the reigning U.S. Open slopestyle champ. "Next year it'll be a real event. It better be."

MARC FRANK MONTOYA

SNOWBOARD SLOPESTYLE

AGE 28 BASE Sandy, Utah

BARE FACT Marc used his first snowboarding paycheck ($800, in 1996) to buy a Technics 1200 turntable.

If you find Montoya's cell phone buried in the fluff, do him a favor: leave it. "It rings so much that sometimes I lose it on purpose," says Montoya, who mixes snowboarding sizzle (fifth in Slopestyle at 2003 Winter X) with an entrepreneurial edge. Besides juggling licensing deals (Technine, Sims, Spy Optic) and DJ'ing high-viz gigs like the Vans Triple Crown afterparty, Montoya has gone Trump on Tahoe, opening The Block in May 2003. The world's first snowboarder hotel, The Block features board racks, boot and glove driers, and an Xbox in every crib. The MFM Suite-room 214, for those who don't know-was designed by the owner himself, and boasts an Atari 2600 on a 56-inch screen. "And it's not finished yet," says Montoya. Neither is he.

GRETCHEN BLEILER

SNOWBOARD SUPERPIPE

AGE 22 BASE Snowmass Village, Colo.

BARE FACT Gretchen had her first big win streak at age 8, as a backstroker on a Dayton (Ohio) Country Club medley relay team that won five races in a row.

King Midas ain't got nothin' on pipe goddess Bleiler. She turned every comp to gold during a four-month stretch last winter, winning eight straight majors, including Winter X. Her secret? "I'm super comfortable being upside down in the air." So comfortable that Bleiler added a McTwist to her bag of tricks over the summer. Fortunately for opponents, she won't be busting out at 2004 X: a bum knee will limit Bleiler's action to ESPN analyst duty. Once she's healed, though, fellow boarders beware: "Now I can throw back-toback inverts, Crippler to McTwist," says Bleiler. "That's pretty." Yeah, 24-carat pretty.

LEVI LAVALLEE

SNOCROSS

AGE 21 BASE Wausau, Wis.

BARE FACT In 2003, LaVallee was one of only three racers (Blair Morgan and Tucker Hibbert were the others) to qualify for the finals of every event he entered.

Cal Ripken Jr.'s 16-year record for longevity is in jeopardy, threatened by ... a T-shirt. "I think the shirt will last the rest of my career," says LaVallee, who plans to race another 10 or 15 years. The second-year pro has rocked his ratty No Fear tee at every race since 1996, including 2003 Winter X, where he finished fifth. He first wore it when he won a couple of junior comps in his hometown of Longville, Minn. Then he raced without his lucky shirt. "I wadded up pretty bad," he says. Seven years later, racer and rag are inseparable. Well, almost. Says LaVallee: "I wouldn't wear it on a date."

ALEISHA CLINE

SKIER X

AGE 33 BASE Whistler, British Columbia

BARE FACT Cline took a few fun runs on a bobsled track in September. Her push time of 5.99 seconds was just .04 seconds off Team Canada's minimum qualifying standard.

She hates the yellow bib. "Every time I wear it," says Cline, "I have a crappy race." Not quite. She crashed and finished sixth at 2000 Winter X after drawing yellow, but wore the bib again in 2003 and won for the third year in a row-despite a bum shoulder that's still slowing her starts. "I can't lift a milk jug," she says. "Fortunately, you don't need to lift a milk jug in skier cross." No, but you do have to ride to the top of mountains. "I'm terrified of heights," Cline says. An odd trait for a world-class skier (and mountain biker), but Cline believes acrophobia is a great motivator: "Once the race starts, I can't wait to get off the hill."