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Monday, April 8, 2013
Updated: May 2, 12:33 PM ET
Grounded to a halt

By As told to B.J. Smith
ESPN The Magazine

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Taka Higashino, 28

Best Trick debut: 2010
Medal count: 1 silver, 1 bronze

We didn't think about people dying before Jeremy Lusk was killed [in 2009 at an event in Costa Rica]. It was just injuries, just broken bones. Now it's different: It's too crazy dangerous. Some people, whether they land their trick in practice or not, they just go for it at X Games. I never tried the go-for-it trick; I just can't do it like that. And now Eigo Sato has died [in February], and he was just practicing a backflip. He was like a brother, and I respected him a lot. After thinking about it, it makes me nervous every single jump.

Kyle Loza, 26

Best Trick debut: 2007
Medal count: 3 gold

I really didn't think Best Trick was going to be pulled from X Games, and once it was, it changed my mindset. I have always wanted to transition into freestyle and take all of my tricks and do a run, but it was a really big step that I didn't think I was ready to take. Now that it's happening -- and I'm getting pushed into that situation -- it has been really good. It has definitely made me train way harder than ever. I ride because I like making up new stuff, so you're going to see freestyle runs that you've never seen before.

Brian Deegan, 38

Best Trick debut: 2001
Medal count: 3 gold, 2 bronze

Without Best Trick, the innovation of the sport is going to fizzle out. They're clipping the best event at X Games. There is a way to do it and make it safe; only invite guys who are top 10 in freestyle or guys who have won the event. Take out these guys who are one-trick sensations and narrow it down to professional athletes. Freestyle motocross is dangerous -- whether you're going to do one trick or 12 in a freestyle run -- and that's what attracts people to it, and that's why riders like the thrill of it.

Jackson Strong, 21

Best Trick debut: 2011
Medal count: 2 gold

I was definitely let down when Best Trick was called off. It was always one of the highest points of an athletic competition. There's so much training -- mental and physical -- and so much work that goes into that competition. But we've still got Moto X Freestyle. The guys out there who liked Best Trick are going to throw them down in their freestyle runs, so it's just going to make the event that much more exciting. I'm going to try to keep doing my best tricks in my freestyle run.

Travis Pastrana, 29

Best Trick debut: 2001
Medal count: 1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze

Best Trick was a glimpse into the future, and it was where you found out what may or may not be possible. For them to take that out is to take out a staple of why X Games is still a fun thing to watch. But it's the best way to keep it a positive thing with actual athletes, role models for kids, guys who understand sport and longevity and training and everything else. That's all good, but you're slowing down the progression, which is kind of what freestyle is all about, so it's a double-edged sword.

Cam Sinclair, 29

Best trick debut: 2010
Medal count: 1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze

My first reaction, because of all of the guys who have been passing away lately, was that in a way, it's a good idea. But at the same time, it's been my favorite event, and before I rode X Games, I watched it for years and years. I was looking forward to competing in it for the next couple of years. I still don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing. I'm still upset from losing all of our friends from pushing themselves. The positive will be slowing the injuries down and keeping the sport safer.

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