The Day Before Semis, Athletes Are Heating Up
SALT LAKE CITY - There are less than 24 hours before the first competition runs from Salt Lake City for the 2017 Nitro World Games. Friday's semifinals will whittle the entire field by half, and though they're unfortunately not broadcast or open to the public, we will be streaming some of the events live on Facebook and Instagram. BMX Best Tricks (2 pm ET) and Scooter Best Tricks (6:45 pm ET) will go down on the Nitro Circus Facebook, and Skate Best Tricks (3 pm ET) will be live on the Nitro Circus Instagram.
The weather for the last full day of practice was a relatively mild high 80s. Compared with the sweltering temps the last two days, it was a welcome relief for today's practice sessions, which have ratcheted up in intensity, as athletes pushed themselves in preparation for the semis. On the scooter side, all three podium finishers from last year were going big in practice: Capron Funk, Jordan Clark, and Corey Funk were holding nothing back. We also saw Dakota Schuetz, Ryan Williams, Jamie Hull (in that video above), Will Barlow, and Wyatt Brown. Clayton Lindley was on hand to lend his support. Lindley qualified for the scooter event but unfortunately picked up an injury and had to drop out.
We cornered 2016 FMX Champion Levi Sherwood to see if he would mind if we told you that he's been practicing double backflips and is hoping to try one in competition on Saturday. He obviously gave us his blessing. Sherwood is one of the few athletes who don't have to ride in the semifinals -- he's going directly to the finals to defend his title, so his FMX run will definitely be part of the NBC broadcast. The mood in the FMX tent was light but focused. The athletes prepped for practice by working on their bikes, making sure they're ready for anything. It might surprise some to learn that these athletes are very hands-on with their own gear. Prepping your machine is as much about pre-game ritual and focus as it is about simply wanting to know every nut and bolt.
The day started on a much less intense note. Travis Pastrana and Nitro World Games competitors Blake "Bilko" Williams, Jaie Toohey, and James Foster let off some steam driving Polaris Slingshots for a promotional event that we hesitate to call "promotional event" because it was a lot more like what these guys would be doing on any given morning if they could. The Slingshot Challenge consisted of three events: fastest donuts and two slalom courses. Pastrana and Bilko had the clear advantage against the two BMXers, but all three contests were closer than anyone expected. With cash prizes and pride on the line, the results went about how you'd expect: Pastrana took both of the slalom events to win the day, and he pledged his prize money to the Roner foundation. Here are some photos from the event (video evidence will be coming soon):
Back at the stadium, the final full day of practice went off, culminating in the FMX Best Tricks athletes hucking it into the airbag lander. Pat Bowden has some awesomeness in store for the main event Saturday (which you should absolutely watch on NBC at 8 ET / 7 CT / 8 PT). You may have seen some social media chatter about a hard wreck he had in practice, but two things: One, he's going really, really big, and he had more good jumps than bad. And two, it's going to take a lot more than that to sideline Bowden. He was a little dinged up but was totally fine.
This is it. Semifinals are Friday, as we mentioned at the top, and then it's the main event on Saturday. We've been talking about it for so long we can't believe it's here. The next time we talk we'll have your 2017 finalists and highlights from Friday's competition.