Athletes flew through the air without holding onto their bikes. Others wiped out on their skateboards. Small children demonstrated they could fit in, too, by bungee-jumping through the interactive village. Other youngsters took a much safer route by competing in trivia contests. Teenage girls swooned over the hottest male competitors.
Such were the X Games, chapter VIII.
The parking lots around the First Union Complex were filled to capacity as 221,352 fans attended the event over the five-day span, Aug. 15-19. An average of 40,210 spectators attended the X Games per day — a 13-percent increase from last summer’s event, which also took place in South Philly.
This year’s highlights, in the nutshell:
* For Philadelphia resident Brynn Blalock the Games were extra special, as he was the 2-millionth fan to attend the event in its history. He walked through the turnstile at 2:41 p.m. Sunday.
* Athletes made their fans happy by signing autographs and tossing their helmets and skateboards into the stands. But Kerry Getz, of Second and Queen streets, tossed his board and helmet out of anger after falling in the final of Monday’s skateboard park competition. The standing-room-only crowd saved the loudest applause of the afternoon for their hometown athlete.
After he finished a disappointing 11th, the skateboarder decided he was all X-ed out and headed home.
Getz was considered one of the favorites heading into the event after winning the silver medal last summer. Brazilian Rodil De Araujo Jr. successfully defended his gold medal with a score of 93, while fellow countryman Wagner Ramos won the silver. Araujo Jr. left the X Games with three skateboarding gold medals.
The other two medals came in the Aug. 10 skateboard street competition on the west side of City Hall. Getz, who entered the event as the defending gold medallist, was considered a serious contender. The Queen Villager knocked himself out of medal contention with a 77.3, ranking him eighth of nine competitors. He finished last in skateboard street best trick, which Araujo Jr. won. Fellow South Philadelphian Ricky Loyola, of the 300 block of South Greenwich Street, finished sixth in the street competition with a score of 80.
* The Japanese dominated Monday’s aggressive in-line skate vert competition by claiming three of the top four spots. Takeshi Yasutoko and younger brother Eito won the gold and silver, respectively. Takeshi earned his first-ever X Games gold medal with a near-perfect score of 97. Eito, who finished with a 93.75, won two golds, a silver and a bronze.
* Tony Hawk is the one athlete the X Games fans can’t wait to see. Most of them grew up playing his video game on Sony PlayStation. Hawk didn’t disappoint his fans over the weekend, as he teamed with Andy Macdonald to win the skateboard vert doubles gold with a score of 95.50. Hawk, of San Diego, Calif. won the bronze in skateboard vert best trick.
* Moto X is another big draw, as athletes risk their lives trying to score the most points from the judges. Superman, double-handed Hart attack and nac nac are some popular stunts. Mike "Godfather" Metzger won the freestyle gold medal after landing the first back-to-back backflips in moto X history. When performing this move, the athlete’s bike makes a complete flip through the air and the rider goes upside down. The judges awarded the daredevil a 98 out of a possible 100 points.
Metzger added more gold on Monday by winning the big air final. In that event, riders have three attempts to perform the best trick while jumping over an 80-foot gap. It was his third X Games medal, which included a silver in Sunday’s step-up competition. Metzger also was crowned best overall X Games athlete, winning a Fender guitar.
* Fourteen-year-old Tori Allen took the gold medal in the women’s speed climb competition and set a new X Games record by climbing the 60-foot wall in 13.417 seconds. The record shattered last year’s mark set by Elena Repko by nearly four seconds.
The Europeans dominated the men’s event by sweeping the top three spots. Maxim Stenkovoy, of the Ukraine, won the gold, while Russians Alexandre Pechekhonov and Serguei Sinitsyn took the silver and bronze, respectively.
* Mat Hoffman successfully landed the first-ever no-handed 900 — a two-and-a-half-rotation spin — in the bike stunt competition. He ended up winning the silver, as Dave Mirra took the gold. A double 720 tailwhip — two full rotations — earned Mirra a 94.40 from the judges. It was his fifth gold in the last six years.
* Allan Cooke won the gold in the bicycle stunt dirt competition with a 90.47. It marked a big turnaround from last summer’s event, in which he didn’t medal. He defeated Ryan Nyquist, who won the gold in 2001.
* The 2002 X Games were the first to include women’s exhibitions in moto X freestyle, skateboard vert and skateboard park.
* Philadelphia remains a candidate for next summer’s X Games IX, but Denver, Colo., and Indianapolis, Ind., are other serious contenders. Typically, the event stays in one city for two consecutive years before moving on to a different location.