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What are the X Games?

By Leo J
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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The X Games are an Olympics-style annual competition of so-called "extreme sports." These sports include skateboarding, BMX, inline skating and snowboarding, as well as a number of variations on each and many other events. The X Games were created by cable sports network ESPN in 1995 in response to the growing popularity of these extreme sports. While most of these sports started out as young people finding new and creative things to do on wheels and boards, the X Games provided a competitive venue in which athletes could be timed and judged to determine who was the best. Athletes receive gold, silver and bronze medals for first, second and third place, just like in the Olympics.

When the X Games began, there were only the summer games, which included many variations on the basic sports. Skateboarding has vert, in which athletes are judged on tricks pulled inside a half-pipe, and street, in which athletes are judged on tricks pulled in a manufactured "street" setting that includes hills, ramps and rails. BMX also has vert and street, as well as air, in which an athlete rides up a large ramp and does one or two tricks in the air upon which to be judged. There are also more obscure events like the street luge, in which athletes ride on their backs down a steep road course - and crashes are frequent.

The Winter X Games were created in 1997 and feature similar variations on skiing, snowboarding and other snow-related sports. The Winter X Games have never matched the popularity or attendance figures of the Summer X Games. However, perhaps inspired by the X Games, the Olympics began introducing extreme sports such as snowboarding in 1998. Among the more decorated and popular athletes in X Games history are skateboarders Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist, Bucky Lasek and Andy MacDonald; BMX riders Dave Mirra, Mat Hoffman and Jay Miron; motocross riders Travis Pastrana and Brian Deegan; and snowboarders Todd Richards and Barrett Christy.

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Discussion Comments

By Engelbert — On May 24, 2011

@rjh - I used to rollerblade around the same time - the mid to late 90s - when the X Games and extreme sports in general was really taking off. It was really popular where I grew up and around the world; like skateboards, a pair of rollerblades were usually relatively cheap and you could do it just about anywhere. Now you'd hardly ever see a rollerblader at a skate park.

All sports go through high points and low points, but to me I think the days of inline skating being a part of the X Games or even popular are over. It's hard to pinpoint a specific reason for this, but I have my own opinions. When the X Games first started, skateboarding, BMX and inline skating were the big three. They all used similar if not identical courses and they were entertaining for everybody.

Then I think extreme sports in general became oversaturated and they needed something to keep it fresh and interesting. By then freestyle motocross was really taking off; instead of being limited to videos - you might remember the Crusty Demons of Dirt series - there were a lot more organized events and meanwhile, the X Games was having trouble attracting good enough competitors for inline skating. So when they cut inline skating which I believe was around 2005, they practically killed the sport. No kids were turning on the television and wanting to start skating, they all wanted motorbikes now.

That being said, I had a lot of fun doing it growing up, I just don't think it's coming back any time soon.

By rjh — On May 22, 2011

Does anyone know when and why inline skating was eventually taken out of the X Games? Last time I watched the X Games there was no mention of any inline skating events and I haven't heard about it in years. It seemed so popular when I was growing up in the '90s and then one day it just kind of disappeared.

By redstaR — On May 19, 2011

I remember being in high school and seeing Brian Deegan land the first ever 360 on a motorbike and then a couple years later Travis Pastrana landed a double backflip. It's amazing how they manage to step it up each year.

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