Thursday, January 24, 2013
Jacko Strong talks snowmobiles, X Games
By D'Arcy Maine ESPN The Magazine
From motorcycle to snowmobile: Jacko Strong is ditching his bike to hit the snow at X Games Aspen.
Not content with sitting back and simply enjoying the Australian summer, Jackson "Jacko" Strong, the two-time defending Moto X Best Trick champion, decided he wanted to conquer a new challenge.
Despite the fact he had barely seen snow in his lifetime, the adventurous 21-year-old Aussie decided to try his hand at snowmobiling.
And, after just a few short weeks of training, Strong will make his Winter X Games debut in Aspen this weekend, riding in the Snowmobile Best Trick competition.
Sound crazy? We thought so, too. ESPN Playbook had a chance to talk to Strong last week as he stopped by Bristol, Conn., to defend his sanity. We’re still undecided.
You’ve had so much success on a bike, what motivated you to try snowmobiling?
The motivation didn’t come directly from snowmobiling, I just wanted to test myself as an athlete in a sport different from the one I’ve done my whole life. The opportunity came up, I knew some people and it looked like fun. I respect the sport; I want to be a part of it, so here we are.
I’ve had the opportunity throughout my career to meet so many good people that helped me pull some strings and make things happen. It’s been fun. I haven’t had much time to practice. I’ve only had a few weeks in the snow.
I read somewhere that you said you really had only a few hours of practice time on the snowmobile. Is that true?
Yeah, true. By the time I get to Aspen, I think I’ll have only put in five or six hours on a sled.
Seeing as your practice time has been so limited, what are your realistic goals and expectations heading to Aspen?
This is something I set out to do -- not for anyone else, just for myself. My goal is to just go there and bring something new to the snowmobiling community. Maybe bring a new trick. I can’t say I’m going to go out there and win, because I’ve only been doing this for a couple of weeks in my entire life. I just want to do the best I can.
What hurts to fall on more -- the dirt or the snow?
I don’t know! I’ve had one good crash in the snow. The snow where I was training in Minnesota was really icy because it had rained, so when I landed, I just kind of went sliding. The ice was almost hot even though I slid for a good 80 feet. It didn’t really hurt, though, sliding; it was almost fun. Like sledding.
What’s the worst injury you’ve sustained?
Anyone who has been on a dirt bike or snowmobile or anything like that has been injured. I try to stay fit and healthy just to avoid injuries as much as possible. It motivates me to go to my trainer so I can avoid some of the really bad injuries. I think being healthy helps with that.
Yeah, but ... any broken bones? Everyone wants to know.
Yeah. Of course.
You act like it’s no big deal ...
It’s almost expected. With bones, I’ve been fairly lucky. I’ve broken my arm twice. That sums up my bone history so far. I’m just waiting for more of them.
Do you get scared before competing?
Yeah, I get scared before events. I think "nervous" is a more manly word. Once I get there, it kind of goes away. In the moment of competing, it’s more adrenaline and an emotional high than fear.
What about your mother? How nerve-racking is watching you compete for her?
Mum’s a little bummed of my career decision. I remember when I was little and got my first dirt bike, I would go to a ramp and try and jump it, and that’s when I first broke my arm. I was 11 or 12. Mum knew that’s what I wanted to do, so she was supportive, but she was upset because other people in our little town got mad at her for letting me do it.
How does everyone feel about your riding these days?
She’s fine with it now. Everyone else in my little town has come around as well.
Speaking of your hometown, how does Australia compare to Minnesota, where you’ve been training?
They are completely not alike! Actually, I come from a very rural place in Australia; it’s a farming property out in the sticks. So, apart from the climate, it’s pretty similar to St. Cloud.
What are some of the most common stereotypes or mistruths you hear about Australians?
We don’t put our shrimp on the barbie, we don’t ride kangaroos to school and Steve Irwin is definitely an Aussie icon. That last one is true.
Which country has better sports fans -- the United States or Australia?
That’s tough. Being in Minnesota, during football season and going to a bar and just seeing how passionate everyone is made me think it’s very much the same in Australia. I think both countries are really into their sports. I think the action-sports crowd is bigger in Australia, but then again there are more people in the Los Angeles area than all of Australia.
Is there any other sport you’re planning on trying after the Winter X Games that we should know about?
I’m missing summer in Australia bad. I got a ski boat before I left and I haven’t even gotten to use it yet. I’m looking forward to going out on it as soon as I go back after being in Aspen.
See Jacko Strong compete in the Snowmobile Best Trick Final on ESPN on Sunday, Jan. 27 at 9 p.m. ET.