Step Up is simple. It's a motorcycle high jump, or pole vaulting with a motorcycle instead of a pole. Riders hit a 12-foot vertical wall to catapult body and machine over a rod that loosely rests upon a set of uprights. The PVC pipe-based set-up that's been in use by XG for years wobbles and sways when a rider clips the bar. Adjustments are difficult and putting the bar back on the uprights has always been a clumsyand sometimes comicalchore.
Skating a bowl is all about style, and each skater has something different to offer. Defending gold medalist Glifberg, The Great Dane, has unique style. Tony Trujillo earned bronze in 2008 and skates the bowl fast, taking risks. Omar Hassan barely missed the podium in 2008 (finishing fourth) and has a natural, freestyle riding style around the bowl, doing whatever comes to him. Omar is always a top contender in bowl contests, but he's still looking for his first X Games medal: In fact, Omar's 16 XG competition starts (in 10 XG appearances) without a medal is an XG record; no other athlete has as many as comp starts without hardware. Andy Macdonald earned silver in 2008, and he's got the consistency, plus hard grinds and tricks, to make him a contender again in 2009, even though he's known more as a vert skater.
The bar is 35 feet above the cold, concrete floor but Matt Buyten doesn't see it. He can only see the 12-foot wall looming 25 feet ahead. Maybe a mathematician could figure out the best formula to launch a 230-pound motorcycle over that bar amidst the numbers and variables, but Buyten doesn't have time for a math lesson. He has two attempts to clear what is, to him, an imaginary line far above his head. There are thousands hovering over him in the stands and millions more watching on television, but Buyten is blind to it all. Welcome to Step Up, a game of height and fearlessness.