ASPEN, Colo.—The ESPN Winter X Games have a longstanding reputation for launching little-known athletes to uber-stardom in their respective sports. This media-fueled hyper-propulsion is now evident in the most timeless of sporting traditions—the Olympic Games. Some have considered the Winter Olympics an epilogue to the Winter X Games.
The Winter Olympics and the Winter X Games share three “crossover” sports this year: half pipe, snowboard cross, and ski cross. Over half the athletes in those sports were competing at the Winter X Games 14 in Aspen last week.
Some athletes from these sports are featured in major national marketing campaigns such as Gretchen Bleiler of Aspen and the omnipresent Shaun White of Carlsbad, Calif.
Neither of these two would have been known without the sports juggernaut ESPN shining the light in their direction. Would they have been in the Olympics without ESPN? Absolutely! Would Shaun White be sporting the Target bullseye without ESPN? Most likely not.
The hype continues to grow as the tricks and showmanship become bigger and bigger.
The progression witnessed at the Winter X Games is something to marvel at.
In the 2010 snowboarding half pipe competition alone, the winning run included a trick with three and a half horizontal and two vertical rotations. In 2009, the winning run included three horizontal rotations and a slight vertical wobble.
The skiing Big Air competition included four tricks never performed before in competitions.
In the four years since the Turin Winter Olympics, the progression in freestyle skiing and snowboarding has been unparalleled.
What was once only done in dreams or on PlayStation is now a reality.
The ESPN Winter X Games has been the annual forum for aerial dialogue and showmanship in action sports, and is no doubt the catalyst for the mind-bending feats the whole world will witness in Vancouver.
The Winter X Games started in 1997 at Big Bear, Calif., and snowboarding was clearly the main attraction out of the five sports represented.
As the X Games matured, it traveled from California to Colorado to Vermont and has returned to Colorado and made a home in Aspen since 2002.
ESPN’s 2009 telecasts of Winter X Games 13 reached an average of 942,000 homes.