Last night I found myself writing a tweet, one that I still find true:
I just realized I haven't really cared about #xgames since the @TannerHall and @SimonDumont06 pipe battles. Now I barely watch online clips.
— Brendan Walmer (@Flashkick101) January 26, 2014
Since then it has been retweeted 9 times (including both Simon and Tanner) and favorited 24 times, not an amazing feat by any means, but enough to get me thinking; has comp skiing past it's prime?
For those of you who don't remember, In 2004 a young Simon Dumont won his first X-Games Ski Pipe Gold Medal, and between 2004 and 2009 the only two people to win the Gold in Pipe were Simon and Tanner Hall. In fact, in most cases, the other was Silver Medalist. The two were synonymous with pipe skiing. One of the most memorable battles was in 2007, it was Tanner's tech versus Simon's amplitude, and it couldn't have played out better if it was written by a storyteller. After run number 1, Simon was on top, after run number 2, Tanner was on top (due to a crash on the last trick in Simon's run), Run number 3, Tanner decks hard and doesn't get up for a while (of course they mention his ankles a bunch). So it's down to the final fun, Simon Dumont needs a 95.01, but is only given a 94...a heavily debated score, but either way Tanner Hall wins. The important part of this event was the outcome, it was the drama, Simon is trying to reclaim his throne taken from him the year before by Tanner, Tanner is trying to repeat Gold and cement himself as one of the best contest pros of all time, Simon crashes on what would have easily been the best run of the night, Tanner crashes on his chance to up his score, and finally Simon's score isn't enough (again, controversially so).
A video recap, cause it does more justice than my words:
What does this do, well obviously it sets up the next years pipe comp to include even more drama.
Drama, this is what made the event so exciting. And it seems to be lacking in competitive skiing today. Sure, there's always the "defending champion" and he might not make it into the finals or some young up-and-comer comes in a dethrones him, but it still doesn't have the same feeling as those battles between Tanner Hall and Simon Dumont. So the question is, was that the peak of excitement in contest skiing? The sport is ever evolving; doubles, triples, more style based runs, making it into the Olympics, new faces, old faces retiring - but the excitement seem to be stale. Maybe it's just me, maybe I'm just too old or nostalgic, maybe it is still exciting...but it just doesn't seem like it to me. But with the Olympics on the way in the coming weeks it's our sports chance to shine on the world stage, and if Jersey Shore or American Idol have taught me anything it's that America (and the world) loves drama on television. I can't help but think if the 2007 X-Games pipe competition happened to be at prime time in the Olympics instead of 11pm on a Saturday night on ESPN 2, the world would be hooked on freestyle skiing.