ESPN has cut its ski and snowboard cross events from the Winter X Games in 2013 and that has some would-be participants disappointed by the decision.
The sports broadcaster, which owns and operates all X Games properties, announced last Thursday (Aug. 23) that Skier X, Snowboarder X and Mono Skier X would not be included on the competition schedule this winter. It will be the first year in Winter X Games history that the famous ‘X Course’ will not be built.
“There wasn’t one single factor that led to this decision,” said Tim Reed, senior director of content for the X Games, in an ESPN article breaking the news. “It just comes down to filling the schedule with how much we believe we need to make the event enjoyable to the fans and deliver on what we need from a product standpoint.”
Whistler’s Ashleigh McIvor, a silver medallist in women’s Skier X at the 2010 X Games, is among the athletes who won’t be invited back to Aspen, Colo., this winter. In an email to The Question, she said she was “extremely disappointed” by the decision, particularly since ESPN has long been a supporter of the event.
“ESPN kept our sport going for years when it looked like the IOC wasn’t going to add it to the Olympic program,” said McIvor, the reigning Olympic ski cross champ. “X Games was always like the Olympics of extreme sport for us. It was the biggest race of the season, with the most exposure for our sponsors back then, and continued to be one of my favourite tracks on our race circuit.”
Whistler-based athletes have seen plenty of success on the X Course over the years. Maëlle Ricker is a two-time gold medallist in women’s Snowboarder X, while Samson Danniels won gold in last year’s Mono Skier X race, just to name a couple of highlights.
Canadian sit-skier Josh Dueck, who won gold in Mono Skier X in 2011 and finished on the podium last winter, told ESPN that he found the decision “perplexing.”
“There’s no better exposure we can get for our sport. And right now we’re young and growing exponentially,” Dueck said in the ESPN article.
“This is a huge, huge hit to the evolution we’re seeing. It’s hard to digest.”
With its massive jumps and unique approaches to course-setting, the X Course has typically been the biggest and most challenging that athletes see all year. Although that’s led to injury for some — McIvor herself hasn’t raced since tearing her knee while training on the X Games course in 2011 — ESPN’s willingness to push the boundaries of the sport have always made it a favourite amongst the riders.
“(Skier X) is the reason I got into the sport and why I loved it so much,” said McIvor. “(It had) big, huge jumps that were so well-built that it didn’t even feel like you’d flown that far upon landing.”
Meanwhile, the Winter X Games will bring back the snowmobile events that were dropped last winter — SnoCross and Speed and Style — to the program at Aspen in 2013. Reed left the door open to a similar return for the snow cross races in the future.
“There’s nothing to say we won’t do X Course (in 2014),” he said in the ESPN article. “We believe in the sport, we love it, we’ve been doing it for a lot of years. Ultimately we just made the decision that we’re going to focus on pipe, slope, big air, a full complement of snowmobiles and snowboard street.”
McIvor said she’s hopeful the events can be revived.
“We will all be forever grateful for ESPN’s role in pushing the sport and I am very optimistic about the return of the cross sports to the Winter X Games,” she said.
McIvor suing former sponsor
Ashleigh McIvor is suing a former sponsor for more than $45,000 after the company allegedly failed to honour its contract with the champion skier.
According to a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court, McIvor entered into an agreement with a company now known as YJ Sciences Inc. under which she would promote a product called YouthJuice.
The notice says that the company, then known as Our World Network Inc. (OWN), owed McIvor $10,000 after completion of a photo shoot in November 2010, plus seven monthly installments of $5,000 beginning in January 2011 as per the agreement.
The notice states that “OWN appeared to lose interest in the agreement and in McIvor” after she was injured at the 2011 Winter X Games. OWN failed to produce the monthly payments and the money owing for the photo shoot, said the notice.
McIvor is seeking the full $45,000 stipulated in the contract plus pre-judgment interest and court costs from YJ Sciences. She declined to comment on the claim.
According to the Vancouver-based company’s website, YouthJuice is “the world’s most powerful functional food,” as the drink is made from a variety of berries and sea vegetables. On the same website, YJ Sciences advertises a “home mortgage program”