Jamie Bestwick gunning for ninth straight BMX gold at X Games Austin
By Dave Doolittle
Editor’s note: This article was originally published June 5, 2014
Sitting near a halfpipe set up downtown for tonight’s X Games skateboard and BMX vert competitions on this humid Thursday afternoon, defending eight-straight BMX gold medalist Jamie Bestwick said, somewhat surprisingly, that perhaps it’s time for somebody else to take gold in the event.
“As the defending champion, people are like, ‘Oh it’s the nine-peat,’ and I’m like, ‘Really? Do you know how bad that sounds, the same old dude winning nine times in a row?,’” Bestwick said after some practice runs at the ramp set up at Congress Avenue at 10th Street downtown in the shadow of the state Capitol. “So a part of me is, like, … I think it’s about time somebody else steps up and wins the X Games, and maybe that’ll be a new charge from the next generation of riders.”
But anybody thinkking that the 42-year-old, who’s been unstoppable in this event since 2007, will let be letting up at all tonight had better think again.
“Fortunately the thing about this event is, I love coming here and winning it, so I won’t hold back, and I’ll be trying to keep the streak alive.”
Bestwick will be among eight riders competiting on the halfpipe as part of the kickoff to the inaugural X Games Austin.
The riders will each make two runs that will be judged on factors such as execution, degree of difficulty, continuity, originality and style. The top score of the two runs will count toward their overall ranking.
“Everybody is coming into this event not necessarily they’re gunning for me, personally, but everybody wants to win the X Games,” British-born Bestwick said.
Bestwick couldn’t pinpoint one key to his success, but said he just tries to have fun until it’s time to compete.
“There’s a time to take it seriously, and it’s about 10 seconds after they called your name out and it’s go time,” Bestwick said. “But all this stuff in the interim it’s about having fun. How many times in your life are you going to be lucky enough to ride this halfpipe right here?”
Coco Zurita among those lucky eight who was riding the halfpipe Thursday afternoon, getting ready for the evening’s competition.
The 30-year-old from Chile has competed in seven X Games since 2007, his best finish a silver last year in Brazil.
Zurita had a scary moment Thursday when he crashed hard and spent several minutes lying at the bottom of the ramp in pain. He was able to get up and walk away with some cuts and bruises near his hip.
“It’s kind of early practice, so I figure I’ll just kinda hang out, warm up for a little bit. But I started feeling real good so I started raising my level, pushing my limits until I smashed the ground. Game over,” Zurita said. “I feel all right. I’ll feel good tonight.”
Zurita said his goal is to do his best and not necessarily end Bestwick’s streak.
“My goal is to beat myself, you know?” he said. “I have my own challenge and whatever happens happens. We’re going to do our best out there.”
Skateboard vert is also scheduled at the downtown halfpipe and will feature athletes such as Bucky Lasek, who swept gold at all four X Games vert competitions last year, and young guns Mitchie Bruscoe and Tom Schaar.
The first round, which consists of 12 skaters making two runs each with the top six advancing to the finals, gets under way about 6:30 p.m.
The skateboard and BMX finals will be from 8 to 10 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.
The festivities start at 5 p.m. with a demo from skateboard legend Tony Hawk and several other skaters and BMXers.
The events are free, and open to the public. For more information, visit xgamesaustin.com.