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.
“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.”