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X Games In Los Angeles

Hawk Lands the Big One in His Finale

August 18, 2003|Rob Fernas | Times Staff Writer

Tony Hawk gave the X Games a parting gift Sunday, something to remember him via the highlight reel.

The Babe Ruth of skateboarding waited until the final seconds of his last competition to hit one out of the park -- becoming the first person in the sport's history to nail a 900-degree spin within official time of the vert best trick final at Staples Center.

Hawk is the only person to successfully perform a 900. He had twice nailed the difficult maneuver -- rotating 2 1/2 times in the air before landing on the ramp -- in previous X Games.

But this marked the only time he had done it within the event's 45-minute limit, a feat that validated his stature as the undisputed king of skateboarding. It was a fitting finale to the first X Games held in Los Angeles.

"I'm just stoked that I went out with a bang," said Hawk, 35, who announced after his victory that he would retire from the X Games. "I feel really happy."

Hawk won his 10th gold medal and 16th overall in the X Games, the most of any competitor in the nine years of the extreme sports showcase.

"I don't want the pressure of competing anymore," he said. "I feel like I have other avenues I can explore, doing shows. I have much more fun doing that.

"I can't really top [winning] a gold medal in the best trick and doing my signature move. This sums it up."

Hawk leaves today for Australia to begin work in a movie, so perhaps it wasn't surprising that he staged a Hollywood ending in the vert best trick to the delight of his many fans.

The event consists of skateboarders trying their most difficult and spectacular moves without putting a run together. Competitors descend the half-pipe ramp in an "open-jam" format, taking turns in no official order as if they were at a playground.

With time winding down, Hawk elicited thunderous cheers by landing a perfectly executed 900 and tossing his helmet into the crowd. He also nailed the 900 at the 2001 and 1999 X Games, but those successes came during unofficial extra time, when competitors continue to try tricks that failed during the allotted time.

"It's nice to know that I went out doing something I love," Hawk said. "I made the move everyone associates me with, but nevertheless I made one clean and I finally made one within the time limit. That was good."

Hawk, an extreme sports icon whose skateboarding video games have sold more than 15 million copies, said he decided before the competition that this would be his last X Games.

"I figured if I did well, that's enough," he said.

Friend and fellow skateboarder Andy Macdonald understood Hawk's decision.

"He's been doing this for a long time and he's got a family," said Macdonald, who won the bronze medal in vert best trick. "He's done so much for the sport and now he's just passing the torch."

Macdonald, 30, and Hawk won the X Games vert doubles title six years in a row before Hawk decided to sit out that event this year.

Hawk even tried to raise the stakes. He twice attempted an Indy 900, a more-difficult variation of his signature maneuver, but gave up after two unsuccessful tries. The Indy involves grabbing the board in the front with the rear hand while spinning in the air.

"I wanted to do an Indy, [but] the last one twisted my ankle and threw my confidence off, so I figured I'd just stick with the one I know," he said.

Hawk's reluctance to push the envelope is understandable. He has suffered many injuries, including being knocked unconscious more than 10 times, breaking several ribs -- especially when trying to learn the 900 -- knocking out teeth and tearing cartilage in his knee.

And there are family considerations. Hawk indicated he wants to spend more time with his family -- wife Erin and sons Riley, Spencer and Keegan. The family resides in Carlsbad.

He'll leave future X Games to younger skateboarders such as Australian Jake Brown, 28, and Brazilian Sandro Dias, 28.

Dias won the vert best trick silver medal for the second consecutive year after hitting a varial 540-degree alley-oop, an aerial maneuver where the competitor rotates 1 1/2 times while spinning the board backward to forward under the feet.

"I want to pull a 900 one day," Dias said. "That's good for skateboarding. It's not just good for [Hawk], it's good for us."

Brown's numerous attempts to land a revolutionary tail-grab 900 ultimately ended in failure, but not before he thrilled the crowd with a spectacular series of near-misses that spilled into extra time. Brown finished fourth.

"I think it just shows the perseverance that all these guys have," Hawk said of Brown's effort. "When we set our minds to do something, we'll just keep doing it. It doesn't matter if it's after time or how it compares to everyone else. If we set a goal for ourselves, we stick it through."

Hawk said he welcomes the day when another competitor lands a 900.

"I'm sure it's going to happen eventually," he said. "I'd love to see it."

Until then, this Hawk flies alone.

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