We love a good redemption story. There’s something about seeing a perceived wrong righted or a worthy effort rewarded. We can also all relate to the desire for redemption, and too often we don’t get the chance to fulfill that desire. But what we can do is live vicariously through those who do have the chance. At this year’s Nitro World Games, several returning athletes had a score to settle with their 2016 performance. Here are four that did just that and more.
Beaver Fleming is probably not going to use the word “redemption” when he talks about his 2017 podium run, but those who follow his career know that missing the Top 3 in Skate Best Trick in 2016 was sort of a shocker. Last year Fleming, the most experienced rider in the field on this setup, was pumped after every run no matter its outcome, even prompting Tony Hawk to comment on how he’s never seen someone so stoked on a bail. He’s happy just to be riding, Fleming says. Does he want to win? Of course. But he won’t let it get him down when he doesn’t. He’s just out there to have fun. Of course, we all know winning is a little bit more fun.
Last year burgeoning FMX dynamo Javier Villegas came into the Nitro World Games full of justified confidence, having perfected some of the biggest tricks in FMX and been riding at what he felt was his peak. He finished in fifth, two points off the podium in a competition that saw almost a 20-point difference between first and last. Immediately after last year’s competition, Villegas vowed he’d up his game even more and rise in the ranks at the 2017 NWG. He certainly did. Not only did he perfect his already technical skills on huge tricks, he added a frontflip to his repertoire and in the process took home the second-place trophy.
Ryan Williams came into 2016 as the clear favorite to win the Scooter Best Tricks event. At that time, he had by far the most experience in scooter big air and on a mega ramp in general. The event was smaller, with only five riders in the final and no semifinals or qualifying. When R-Willy finished at the bottom of the table, it was a surprise to say the least. Fast-forward to 2017. Scooter has blown up even more, and over 50 athletes from around the world came to Southern California to practice on the NWG setups prior to qualifiers.
In the end, there were more than enough competitors for a hard-fought qualifier, a knock-down-drag-out semifinal, and a highlight-reel final. For R-Willy, the added number of skilled riders and the raised level of competition meant that his first-place finish was better than just a like-for-like redemption. He came out with something to prove and definitely accomplished that mission.
Brian Fox had the highest high and the lowest low at NWG in 2016. Coming into both BMX events as an up-and-coming underdog, he surprised many by winning the Triple Hit qualifier outright and also making the Top 16 in BMX Best Tricks, earning him a place among the unicorns that qualified in two events. He made it to Salt Lake City with podiums on his mind, but in his last practice run before the Triple Hit semifinal, he wiped out and separated his shoulder, knocking him completely out of the competition before he had a chance to prove himself on the bigger stage. “I turned it into motivation, and it was the greatest motivation I’ve ever had,” he told us in an interview ahead of the semis this year. Last week in SLC he came out and showed that his winning ways in 2016 were no fluke. He walked away with a trophy and, perhaps more importantly, the sweet taste of redemption.