Ideal conditions greeted an enthusiastic crowd of 12,400 as X Games Aspen 2016 commenced in Colorado. The top winter action sport athletes showcased their skill and talent in ski, snowboard and snowmobile disciplines.
Competition kicked off with the return of the Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding event, where Special Olympic athletes are paired with X Games athletes and race down each of the two giant dual slalom competition courses. Defending their gold medal, Henry Meece of Portland, Oregon and decorated Olympian, Chris Klug took the top spot for a second straight year, narrowly edging out the team of Snowboard SuperPipe two-time gold medalist Danny Davis and Zach Elder, who won a bronze medal in last year’s event, by fractions of a second. Taking third was six-time Snowboard SuperPipe and Olympic gold medalist Hannah Teter and Daina Shilts who won silver with Teter last year.
On winning gold for the second straight year, Henry Meece says the following, “I’m double double stoked! I went as fast as I can — just bombing it! Strait down!”
Silver medalist in the Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding Danny Davis spoke out on the Special Olympians. “Just to see that nothing is holding them back is pretty inspiring. I’m motivated and inspired by these guys. These events make you remember why you snowboard.”
Two SnoCross events took place in the evening, including disabled athletes showcasing their skills in the SnoCross Adaptive final. From the start it was Mike Schultz who dominated the field, racing his way to his fifth X Games gold medal beating out fellow competitor Paul Thacker by nearly a minute. Rutland, Vermont’s E.J. Poplawski took third.
“Last year I was on the sidelines and watching someone else win kind of stings a little so it was good to get back out and just let it fly.”
–Mike Schultz, SnoCross Adaptive Gold Medalist
Following suit, Snowmobile SnoCross legend Tucker Hibbert gained control of the race from the beginning and went on to win a record nine consecutive X Games gold medals, the most for any winter athlete. Swedish rider Adam Renheim finished second with New York native Corin Todd placing third. For the 31-year-old Hibbert, the win earned him his 14th X Games medal – 10 gold, three silver and a bronze.
“You think after this many times I wouldn’t be nervous… but I am! I gotta give it up for my team too. We keep working as hard as we can because we know the competition is doing the same.”
-Tucker Hibbert, Gold Medalist SnoCross, on his record ninth consecutive Gold Medal
The Men’s Ski SuperPipe final saw one of the most exciting victories of the day as Frenchman Kevin Rolland took the win on his final run with a score of 93.33. Dropping into the pipe in tenth place as the last competitor of the evening, Rolland started his run off with a switch double cork 1080 before launching into a right side double cork 1260 followed by the same on the left side. The run edged out Gus Kenworthy’s score of 92.33. This marks Rolland’s first X Games gold medal in six years. The silver medal was Gus Kenworthy‘s first. Rounding out the podium was Rolland’s fellow countryman Benoit Valentin with a score of 90.66.
“I was really under a lot of pressure… but I think I love it!”
-Kevin Rolland, Men’s Ski SuperPipe Gold Medalist
Proceeded by Run the Jewels, legendary hip-hop artist Nas took the stage captivating the crowd into the night with a set of classics capping off another memorable night at X Games Aspen.
Friday’s competition will include women’s Snowboard Slopestyle, Women’s Ski Slopestyle, Monster Energy Snowmobile Freestyle, Women’s Ski SuperPipe and America’s Navy Snowboard Big Air as well as musical act Twenty One Pilots taking the stage immediately following the competition. Tickets for all musical acts can be purchased at www.xgames.com/tickets.