Yesterday was a good day for flatland, the return of flatland to the X Games after a 19 year hiatus. They started just like every other so far, you collect the bag with your covid 19 test on your door handle, get the test done.
Daily procedure, it is what it is. Boring part out the way, ready to enjoy the rest of the day.
Two scheduled practise times for the day, 10am and 5pm. Most of the riders were out early getting tuned with what they were going to throw down. Kio Hayakawa was riding the most of everyone I saw, Ucchie was going for his backwards manual bike flip line, Yu Katagiri as second alternate joined the session, and dropped a few hammers like it was nothing on his fresh Ti Chari & Co set up (check the Fm insta for one of videos!).
It’s obvious to say, but Yu could definitely have been a contender for Gold, maybe next time…
The contest was scheduled to start at 7:30 local time in Chiba, Japan. The tension began to build around 6pm, the stadium lights bought a new atmosphere to the flatland area. The stadium is so big that even though there were a lot of spectators it looked relatively quiet. It was great to see all the riders and skaters take an interest and all gather round to watch the contest go down.
As I mentioned before, it was a new experience for me to judge through a monitor. After a quick meeting with the TV crew, myself, Simon O’Brien and York Uno decided upon a camera angle we thought was best and the contest got underway.
The judging format was also something new for me, with progression, originality, difficulty, and execution being the key factors, if a rider crashed it wasn’t punished as much as usual (unless of course you pull nothing..) I think that’s obvious though.
It was interesting to see how each rider had a different stategy for the event, the first battle up was Breakthrough Rider of the Year, Varo Hernandez vs alternate rider Kio Hayakawa. Kio rode like an animal and seasoned contest rider right out the gate, all kinds of crazy unique blender variations pulled with perfect execution. Varo started strong with a huge first line just missing the pedal to pedal ride out. Kio went through on the first battle.
Next up, two close friends and Red Bull team mates going head to head. Matthias Dandois vs Terry Adams, Matthias went in hard with a couple of brand new ones, backwards no-handed x-ft spinning mega spin linking into no-handed two footed no-handed ice cream turbines. Terry had a few touches, but finished strong with an amazing last Katrina line ending in his signature crackpacker 360 flip to x-ft hitch.
Matthias scored higher in all categories so advanced. Terry went out…
Next battle up was Viki Gomez vs Moto Sasaki, Viki on a titanium bike, and Moto riding a really heavy bike, two contrasts in styles. The bike set-ups played an interesting part in this event I felt. Moto went hard right out the gate, with his signature steam 360 flip to teakettle, and then one upped the same line, interesting strategy… Viki had a hard time, and wasn’t able to land his combos as he would have liked.
Moto advanced, Viki was out..
The next battle up was potentially a real fight to go through, contest shark Alex Jumelin vs arguably the most progressive rider in the field, Yohei Uchino. It looked like Ucchie changed his plan during the warm up, and wasn’t able to land the ice cream bike flip to backwards manual he wanted, Alex meanwhile pulled his signature lines, including a pumping nose (what a crazy fluctuating balance point that must be, Alex went through surprisingly easily.. Just goes to show you never know what’s going to happen in a contest. Ucchie many’s favourite for gold was out!
Semi-final battles up next and whoever scored highest, got to go last in the battle… First Semi final up was Matthias vs Kio, a repeat of the Never Off Battle final last year. This was a heavy battle, with both riders going off. Kio upped his level from his first round battle bringing a high level of progression, originality and difficulty with amazing execution to move through to final. Matthias was out and would battle it out for X Games bronze.
The next semi final battle up was definitely felt the hardest battle to judge of the event, Alex Jumelin vs Moto Sasaki. Alex once again killed the nose manual variations, lacing his signature 1080 and pumping nose manual lines clean, Moto went for the steam 360 flip to tea kettle line and landed the forward spinning Karl on pedal a’la Alex Jumelin. Moto laid the bike down on the ride out, so didn’t score as High on execution and he didn’t pull anything else.
We took a few more moments on this decision, Alex did a lot more combos so rightfully going through to the final and Moto ready to battle Matthias for the bronze medal.. What a contest and what a moment for Alex!!
The battle for third place went off, with Moto disappointed from his battle with Alex seemed to motivate him higher, and he went off! Lacing the steam 360 flip to tea kettle line, and adding hang 5 pivot to xft crack turbines to backwards spinning crack into a huge line. If Moto would have rode like this against Alex, Moto would have made the final. It’s contests I guess. Matthias seemed to run out of steam a bit in the third place battle, perhaps losing his focus after going out and in the end the judges were three for three Moto taking bronze and Matthias fourth.
The X Games final was lit, Alex pulling the best 1080 nose manual of his life in his run, Kio was unphased and dropped the line of the contest hitting his signature blender 360 bike flip to time machine, into a huge line to take the first X Games Gold in 19 years!! Not a bad moment for an alternate rider, Alex was hyped! What a great advert for flatland, Kio was in tears.
An amazing moment for flatland and the payout was huge!! Not that money matters but 20l for first, 15k for second and 10k for third is huge!!!
Like all contests this one didn’t pan out how I imagined at all. With a few riders buckling under the pressure, but thats contests. You win some you lose some.
Big thank you to X Games Japan for inviting me, to my fellow judges Simon O’Brien and York Uno. This was a great experience I will remember forever. I hope you enjoyed my breakdown of yesterdays event. Flying home tomorrow, can’t wait to get to riding!!!