In the latest installment of the “Only One” series, the search for Black fans at sporting event continues. This week the Only visits the X Games.
The law of gravity — what goes up, must come down – applies even if you are a competitor at the X Games.
Formerly called the Extreme Games, the multi-day event changed its name two years after it began its run in 1995. The X Games usually consists of three main elements: BMX, skateboard and Moto.
Up until last month, the Only One never watched the ESPN-created event. When it came to town for its second of four consecutive appearances at the Vikings downtown stadium, I decided to try it at least once.
A stadium worker told the MSR that when he worked the 2017 Games, he rarely saw anyone Black, and didn’t expect to see anyone this year, as well. I later ran into that worker and told him of my discovery: 30-year-old Mykel Larrin of Racine, Wisconsin.
According to ESPN, he is “a jack-of-all-disciplines” who started his X Games career in 2012. He won bronze in 2015 in the BMX Big Air, the activity I watched him compete in — one of three events he was entered in.
Watching a practice a day before was astounding, crazy looking and scary — as I said, the laws of gravity weren’t waived for this rollercoaster-looking track.
The BMX Big Air has a starting ramp then “drop-in” from a 50- or 65-foot high “roll-in.” The athletes then hit a kicker ramp over a 50- or 65-foot gap, where they attempt their first trick and continue into a 27-foot quarter pipe for the second trick. Judges score them on tricks executed over the gap and off the quarter pipe, style, creativity and amplitude (height of airs).
Larrin was among eight competitors, each making four runs to achieve their best score — the top three scores win medals.
Is it scary? “Fear is false evidence of being real,” Larrin told the Only One after he completed the Big Air. “Danger is real… but there is a definitive line between the those two.”
“That adversity makes [you] better and stronger, and developed my character,” Larrin stressed. “It becomes the foundation on why I do it.”
And on his final run, in hopes to improve on his best score, Larrin’s adversity, character and just plain guts were surely tested: While in the air, he was forced to abort and jump off his bike.
“Coming into the fourth run, I wanted to put it all on the line, and I was going to attempt a double back flip and jump, but I came up a little short,” explained Larrin. “I didn’t realize [it] until halfway through the trick… I got 70 feet [up] and saw the landing [and] the alarms in my head said we are not getting around on that one. I could have landed upside down.”
Instead, Larrin landed on the ground and rightfully earned applause from the stadium crowd, who was able to exhale — “I hit the reject button and landed [safely]. I thank God I was able to do it,” he said.
Larrin is an X Games star — he finished fourth in the Big Air and later finished 10th in BMX Park. He regularly speaks out against bullying and is a regular on the Bikes Over Baghdad tour, which performs for U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East. He has competed professionally since 2011.
Although there aren’t many Blacks on the competition circuit, “I love what I do so bad,” Larrin said. “For people who haven’t seen X Games, it’s such a freedom of expression. I’m just real grateful to have this opportunity.
“I’m living a dream and don’t want to wake up from it,” he said.
Charles Hallman is the senior staff writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org