From humble beginnings in Rhode Island in 1995, the X Games has grown to become the gold standard in extreme sports and now features both a winter and summer games that have taken place all over the world and attracts thousands of fans every year.
Big stars establish themselves in early contests
The 1995 edition was known as the Extreme Games and a number of the sport’s big names established themselves from the get go in Newport and Providence, Rhode Island.
Tony Hawk took gold in the skateboard vert and silver in the skateboard street, with Chris Senn preventing him from a clean sweep.
Mat Hoffman took his first golf medal in the BMX vert, with Dave Mirra picking up BMX street gold a year later.
Skateboard legend Hawk dominated the early editions of the skateboarding competition, making the perfect run of 97.50 in the 1997 vert event.
In 1997, the X Games branched out into a winter edition with sports such as skiing and snowboarding taking centre stage.
The winter games were an instant success with 38,000 people attending the inaugural event.
One athlete more than any other has come to define the winter X Games and that is Shaun White. The snowboarder has the world record for most X Games gold medals with 15 and also sports five silvers and three bronze.
Influence of ESPN
ESPN organise, produce and broadcast the X Games and have used the games to reach a much wider audience than extreme sports had previously been available to.
The channel has also used the event to experiment with many of the broadcasting techniques that they then used in other sports.
They have broadcast live since 2002 and this helped capture the imagination of the public. They also used drones from 2015 onwards, which was one of the first times they did so in a sporting broadcast.
Many of the big moments from X Games history have become some of the most iconic moments in the history of extreme sports.
Hawk’s 900 is arguably the most famous single event in skateboarding history. After nine failed attempts in the 1999 vert competition, the legend of the sport finally landed the trick.
Another iconic moment came when White landed the double McTwist 1260, a feat still considered one of the most iconic in the sport.
Travis Pastrana also put himself into the same stratosphere as Hawk and White when he hit the world’s first double backflip on a dirt bike in 2006.
What these three moments make clear is that the X Games provides a unique opportunity for stars to cement their legendary status by completing tricks that capture the imagination of the public and make them famous names in their sport.
The X Games is still going strong at nearly 30 years old and continues to be extreme sports’ biggest event.