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X Games 14

To some, nothing super about superpark

August 03, 2008|Pete Thomas and Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writers

Mutiny does not generally figure into new X Games events, but there was no mistaking what has happened at the Home Depot Center as anything but a rebellion.

At issue is a new superpark course -- featuring a blend of vert and street elements for skateboarders and BMX riders -- that is deemed by some to be too small, too tight and with difficult transition lines.

The BMX superpark final was won by Daniel Dhers, a park specialist who days beforehand had said the course did not allow for big tricks. But Dhers won with a big trick -- a 720-degree spin over "the spine" -- and afterward was far less critical.

"I didn't swim this far to sink at the shore," said Dhers, a Venezuelan.

But also Saturday, many of skateboarding's top stars went missing from superpark qualifying.

Among them Shaun White, who finished third in the vert competition; Ryan Sheckler, winner of Friday's street-skating competition; Bob Burnquist, winner of Thursday's big-air gold, and Bucky Lasek, silver medalist in vert.

Criticism, defense

Burnquist called the superpark a "mini-park" that he could not take seriously. "There's nothing super about it," he said.

Lasek charged, "It all comes down to the mighty dollar."

Chris Stiepock, X Games general manager, defended the effort that went into building the course and pointed out it is mostly vert skaters and vert BMX riders complaining.

He added it is impossible to please everyone -- especially skateboarders -- and that, sure, in this tough economic time, money is an issue.

Of X Games athletes Stiepock said, "They don't care what things cost. They don't want to hear about it. They just want to have things pristine and glorious when they come here."

An ironic note

Rune Glifberg, who qualified No. 1 for today's skateboard superpark final, on Friday sounded as though he'd be joining the exodus.

"ESPN wouldn't listen to anything we said so they went ahead to have a BMX ramp builder design and build the thing. It just doesn't work for skateboarding and I hear the BMXers aren't too happy about it either."

The end of vert?

Vert and BMX riders and skateboarders, as a rule, also were not happy with a dumbed-down vert ramp.

Nor are they pleased with rumors and implications that vert competitions will be phased out of an increasingly motorized X Games.

Apparently, vert as it has been known for 14 years of X Games competitions, was going to be replaced this year by a superpark competition on what the vert specialists believed would be a larger course.

Instead, both venues were built -- neither in grand style. Said Lasek: "At least they gave us a vert ramp, and it's a good vert ramp. It just isn't what X Games is capable of."

The winners

Pierre-Luc Gagnon, recently rewarded with a $75,000 paycheck for his triumph in the inaugural Maloof Money Cup, won the skate portion.

Jamie Bestwick defended his X Games gold medal in BMX vert and afterward said, "I definitely think it was the most exciting vert contest I've been to in the whole history of X Games."

His remark was clearly directed toward X Games officials.

Jeremy who?

Legendary race car driver Bobby Unser once said, "Nobody remembers who finished second but the guy who finished second."

Those who watched the Moto X racing final will likely remember Jeremy McGrath. McGrath, a seven-time supercross champion who has long retired from that sport, held off challenges from Josh Grant and Josh Hill to finish runner-up to Josh Hansen in the 10-lap final.

"I haven't raced in a while, so it was exciting to be back on the track," said McGrath, 36. "I'm pretty surprised to be up here."

Arriving on fumes

Kevin Johnson, an arena-cross specialist from Albuquerque, registered an upset victory in the new speed-and-style event, which was timely because his racing sponsors refused to pay for his trip.

He did, however, obtain a free gas card from a travel agency, but it expired somewhere along the way. "We were scraping by just to get here," he said.

Johnson does not blame his sponsors. "I don't feel like I'm good enough to be here right now," he said of his top podium placement.

A silver lining

Fallbrook's Ronnie Renner finished second in speed-and-style -- a blend of racing and freestyle -- a night after planting sideways with his motorcycle from 32 feet the night before, in the step-up contest.

"I feel like I've been in a heavyweight fight," he said, wearing bandages on his chin and cheek. "Maybe a lightweight fight. I'm not that big."

No kooks allowed

Women's motocross made its X Games debut on what essentially was a larger, more daunting supercross course, which left some of the riders wondering what they'd gotten themselves into. Said winner Tara Geiger: "I get nervous before any race because you do not want to crash and look like a kook -- especially if it's going to be on TV."

And finally

White was asked by a reporter when he last washed his lucky shorts. "Can't do it," the skateboarder replied. "The flies are lucky."

White finally confessed that he recently broke down and washed them. "They were starting to make my T-shirts smell," he said.

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Times contributor Lucas Shaw contributed to this report.

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pete.thomas@latimes.com

dan.arritt@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The facts

When, where: Today, Staples Center (and Event Deck at LA Live) and

the Home Depot Center.

Tickets: $10-$20 for all-day entry. Available on site or via Ticketmaster and Ticketmaster.com.

TODAY'S MEDAL EVENT FINALS

11 a.m.-12 p.m.: Skateboard Vert Am Final -- Home Depot Center

12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.: Skateboard SuperPark Final -- Home Depot Center

1:30 p.m.-3 p.m. : Rally Car Racing Super Special Final -- Home Depot Center

LIVE UPDATES ON THE WEB

Go to latimes.com for complete coverage from all of today's X Games action.

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