X Games notes Day 0: Alex Ferreira goes for the three-peat as games get underway
Let’s get this party started. X Games Aspen 2021 officially gets underway Friday, the 20th straight year Buttermilk Ski Area has hosted the event. Here’s a primer for what to watch from home, as no spectators are allowed this year because of the pandemic.
FERREIRA GOES FOR THE THREE-PEAT
8:30 p.m. MT on ESPN2
Alex Ferreira is the only true Aspen local competing this year and you can watch him live in Friday’s nightcap. He’s going for his third straight men’s ski superpipe title in his home halfpipe. The 2018 Olympic silver medalist outdueled Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck last year in an epic contest for the repeat. In 2019, he snuck by the great David Wise for the win.
Barring any last-second positive COVID tests, those three all return. Wise is the two-time (and only) reigning Olympic champion in the sport who also has won X Games Aspen four times (2012, 2013, 2014, 2018). Ferreira would love to join him as a three-peat champion, no doubt. Blunck, the reigning world champion, won X Games Aspen gold in 2017. Any of those three can win Friday’s competition.
The rest of the field includes Winter Park’s Birk Irving (still looking for first X Games medal), Canada’s Noah Bowman (ski pipe silver in 2012) and Brendan MacKay (bronze in 2020), England’s Gus Kenworthy (ski pipe silver in 2016), and New Zealand’s Nico Porteous (Olympic bronze in 2018).
The women’s snowboard slopestyle contest kicks off this year’s X Games at noon. With the pandemic limiting the field, there is no qualifier this year and instead is a straight-to-finals competition. It’s a star-studded group, highlighted by the great Jamie Anderson, who has won the event six times previously, including in 2020. Her competitors are no slouches and include fellow Americans Julia Marino and Hailey Langland, as well as Canada’s Laurie Blouin, Austria’s Anna Gasser, Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi and Kokomo Murase, and New Zealand’s Zoi Sadowski-Synnott. All eight riders already have serious hardware to their name, so it should be quite the show.
KELLY SILDARU’S TRIFECTA QUEST
Both women’s ski big air (2 p.m.) and women’s ski superpipe (7 p.m.) are Friday, so we’ll get to watch Kelly Sildaru compete twice. Once again, the Estonian teen phenom is competing in three events, and last year she nearly pulled off the impossible by winning both ski slopestyle and ski superpipe, while finishing fourth in ski big air. She’s a considerable threat to go 3-for-3 this year, and looked mighty smooth in slopestyle training on Thursday. Women’s ski slopestyle is Saturday morning, so she’ll actually be competing three times in less than 24 hours.
WHERE IS ZEB?
Sadly, last year’s snowboard knuckle huck champion, Zeb Powell, is sitting out this year’s event. A quirky competition where athletes toss themselves off the knuckle of the big air jump and try to perform wild tricks seen nowhere else at X Games, knuckle huck has quickly become a fan favorite. Certainly check that out at 6 p.m., even without Powell here to defend his title.
MAX PARROT IS OUT
Canada’s Max Parrot, one of the most decorated snowboarders of all time, announced Thursday he has withdrawn from X Games Aspen because of a positive COVID-19 test. This is a big blow for both slopestyle and big air, which is already missing another Canadian superstar, Mark McMorris, for the same reason. Essentially, men’s snowboard slopestyle and big air’s two great icons of this generation won’t be competing this weekend. That’s like playing this year’s Super Bowl without Tom Brady AND Patrick Mahomes.
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