The streets of downtown Los Angeles will be packed with skateboards, bmx bikes, and motorcycles from today through Sunday with the kick-off of the Summer X Games, version 17. Often referred to as the Olympics of action sports the event has grown with each year and always features tons of heart-pumping, death-defying feats.
From it's humble beginnings in 1995, the X Games has grown into a valuable franchise with plans to expand to six global events by 2013. In Olympic fashion, countries around the world will bid to host the competition and the action sports athletes will definitely being racking up more frequent flier points.
If it seems like the X Games are all about testosterone, that may be changing. Tomorrow (Friday) is Girls Day at X Games. Since it's inception, female competitors have had a tough time with the X Games. It seems for every step forward, they take two steps back. At the opening night press conference, defending Moto X champion Ashley Fiolek was the lone female on the panel (joined by the likes of Shaun White, Carey Hart, Ryan Sheckler, Bob Burnquist, Travis Pastrana and others). After finally getting some recognition for women's events organizers dropped women's vert from the schedule and have been resistant to add women's bmx. They have, however, added an additional moto event for women.
The women's competitive skate scene is a niche group at best. These ladies have to fight for every ounce of respect they get. In fact, it wasn't until 2003 that women's skateboarding was even added to the X Games line-up. A paltry purse ($2000) and limited exposure ignited Mimi Koop and other female riders to form the first professional female skateboarder's advocacy group, Action Sports Alliance. The group worked to negotiate higher prize purses and more television coverage for women skateboarders. In 2008, X Games organizers finally announced that equal prize money would be paid to male and female athletes at all X Games branded events ($50,000 this year for first place).
We get that X Games targets men 18-34 so there's no real incentive to provide time, space and prize money to the girls, but it becomes a bit of a chicken and egg equation. If there are no (or limited) contests for women, how will they progress to the point where they'll be competitive with their male counterparts?
Though relatively young, the action sports scene for women boasts a lot of great talent and both veterans and newcomers will be on hand this weekend. Here are some of the athletes you should be watching for:
Elissa Steamer Considered one of the best female street skaters in history (the Godmother of street skating), Elissa has four X Games gold medals (2004-2006 and 2008) and six total medals. She was the first female to star in a Tony Hawk video game (Pro Skater) and she's made appearances in legit skate films for more than 15 years. Elissa's been pro since winning Slam City Jam in 1998 (she was the first female pro skater) but just recently split with Zero, her board sponsor of five years. She turns 36 the day before her event at X Games, and she describes her style as "grandma chic."
Alexis Sablone An Ivy League graduate, Alexis has a super smooth style and is one of the most consistent skaters on the scene. She kills it on the course but is incredibly shy and humble on the podium. She took silver at XG in 2009 despite suffering broken ribs early in the competition and finished that season ranked third overall in the World Cup rankings. She started off hot in 2010 with a podium (3rd) at the Dew Tour in Boston (June 2010) and followed up with a gold medal at the Summer X Games. Alexis is a graduate of Columbia University (Barnard) where she studied architecture. Pretty Smart, too!
Marisa Dal Santo Not only is Marissa the defending Street gold medalist, she has five XG medals total (2 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze) in six appearances. The 23-year old Chicago native first competed in the 2005 contest.
Vanessa Torres A California native, Vanessa has competed at every X Game since 2003 when women's skateboarding was introduced. She won the inaugural women's Park competition when she was just 17 and backed it up with silver the following year. In 2009, she proved she was still a force to be reckoned with when she won the Dew Tour stop in Boston and grabbed silver in the Supergirl Jam.
Amy Caron Amy has also competed at XG every year women's skateboarding has been included. Her laid-back style makes her a favorite with her peers and with her experience and ability to land big tricks, you can never count her out.
@LeticiaBufoni (one of the few skateboarders on Twitter but you need to speak Portuguese to follow her ) Bufoni came out of nowhere a few years ago, showing up to contests as a pre-teen and throwing down big tricks. Originally from Brazil, Leticia has relocated to California.
Additional Invited Skaters:Jessica Florencio BRA Candy Jacobs USA Rachael Reinhard USA Eliana Sosco TBD
Ashley Fiolek  - @ashleyfiolek67 Defending Moto X Racing Women’s champion, Fiolek is looking to three-peat this year at X Games 17. A two time AMA/WMX champion, Fiolek was also nominated for Best Female Action Sport Athlete at the 2011 ESPYs. At just 20-years old, Fiolek has blazed a trail for women’s motocross by earning the first-ever female factory Honda Red Bull Racing sponsorship. In her first three seasons, she claimed the 2008 and 2009 AMA/WMX Championships and became the youngest champion ever. Though she finished in second for the overall title in 2010, she is back on track and leading the points standings for the 2011 season. She is also the author of Kicking Up Dirt.
Jessica Patterson @JP_Money250 Will this be the year that Jessica Patterson finally overcomes her bad luck at the X Games and win gold ahead of Ashley Fiolek? The two women consistently dominate on the track, but Fiolek has won the gold two years in a row.
Elizabeth Bash @ebash5 At 5'9", Bash is one of the taller female riders but has a smooth, precise riding style, Bronze medalist in '09 and finished fifth in the '09 WMX series.
Sara Price @SaraPriceMXcom Monster Energy Kawasaki Rider Sara Price is racing #6 this year.
Vicki Golden @VG214 A rising star out of the amateur ranks, the Golden State's Golden has the potential to challenge for a spot on the podium. Golden will compete in both motocross events at XG17.
Jackie Ives @JIves76 Jackie's dad started her riding out in the California desert when she was five years old, on an 'old school' Suzuki RM50 two-stroke, and she hasn't looked back. In 2008 she was named the 'WMA Amateur of the Year' and she made her professional debut in 2009. Her Twitter account has "blown up" this week and she's stoked to be participating in XG.
Livia Lancelot @livy114. The French rider usually races on the European circuit where she often lands on the podium. She became the first ever female champion in the history of motocross, winning the 2008 FIM Women's Motocross World Championship.
Tarah Gieger Originally from Puerto Rican where her parents run a surf shop, Tarah has come a long way since leaving the island to pursue a professional riding career. She won the first Women's Super X gold medal in 2008, was named the AMA Female Rider of the Year in 2007 and collected three AMA Amateur National Championships at Loretta Lynn Ranch.
In Enduro X, a new event this year, racers ride over telephone poles, boulder fields and giant tractor tires to simulate true off-road conditions and determine the best all-around rider. Watch for full-time electrician and women's off-road champ Maria Forsberg who is a front-runner in the ladies field.
dare to dream
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