NWT snowmobiler Dave England fifth on X Games debut
Yellowknife freestyle snowmobiler Dave England finished fifth in his first appearance at the X Games – moving from alternate to medal contender as a rival dropped out.
Veteran Joe Parsons was forced to withdraw from Friday’s final in Aspen, Colorado, after suffering an accident during a warm-up run earlier in the day.
The exit of Parsons – who walked away from the crash, though his snowmobile was damaged as it rag-dolled down the hill – opened the way for Gahcho Kué mine worker England, 28, to make his X Games debut.
“I found out five minutes before the event started,” England told Cabin Radio. He had only been called up to the X Games as an alternate earlier in January.
Over his two 75-second runs the Yellowknifer posted a best score of 78.66 in the judged sport, where riders accelerate up ramps before pulling mid-air tricks with their machines.
In full: X Games snowmobile freestyle results
That result left England fifth behind winner Brandon Cormier, a fellow X Games rookie, who took gold with 88.00. Last year’s winner Daniel Bodin was second with 87.33. England missed the podium by a little over five points as Willie Elam took bronze with 84.00.
England’s performance came despite having to use his back-up sled following problems with his main machine in Aspen.
Competitors on Friday had some heart-stopping moments. Marcus Ohlsson came off the sled on his first jump while Rasmus Johansson recovered quickly to ride away after parting company with his sled when he missed a seat grab. Brett Turcotte placed sixth, behind England, after a jarring landing knocked him from his machine.
Heath Frisby, who finished seventh, did not return for a second run after being thrown from the sled while landing during his first – which caused a significant on-course delay just before England’s first-ever X Games appearance.
“This guy also works at a remote diamond mine in the Arctic. He had a heck of a commute to get down here,” X Games commentator Jimmy Coleman declared as England made his start.
Stepping up after Frisby’s sled had been cleared from the course, England produced a captivating and largely confident performance – though a “slow-motion” backflip, in which the motor appeared on the verge of stalling out, had the crowd on edge.
“That was fun to watch – but I was terrified,” Coleman concluded as England finished his opening run.
“I went out there and kept it safe,” said England. “I had bigger tricks but I watched a few riders ahead of me crash so I figured I’d just keep it safe and get through my runs and get a score on the board. Consistency and style was my plan.
“I was having issues with my arms cramping up during practice earlier that day – it was challenging to ride. Thanks to the X Games physio staff I was able to ride the competition.
“It worked out in the end and I’m stoked.”
England thanked mechanic and former X Games competitor Mike Poirier, friend Tanner Klochko, Paul Thacker, Vito Taverna, and his sponsors.
He is not the only NWT snowmobiler in elite-level action this month.
Brandon Bradbury, who races in snocross, is set to compete in a high-profile Amsoil Championship Series event in Dubuque, Iowa on January 31 and February 1.
“After breaking my leg last Christmas and being laid up on the couch all of last season … this is a huge opportunity,” said Bradbury. “I’ve never raced in this series before and it has always been my number-one goal in snocross racing.”