Skateboard Legend Rune Glifberg and 20 Years of X Games

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Rune Glifberg has been apart of X Games since the beginning. He was on hand that first year in 1995 when the event was called Extreme Games and ESPN and the greater sporting landscape were still trying to wrap their respective heads around where action sports fit into the bigger picture. Nearly 20 years later, Rune is an icon in skateboarding, an eight-time X Games medal winner, and at 39 is still a contender for the podium every year.

When X Games celebrates its 20-year milestone this week in Austin, Texas, Rune will also be receiving a nod of the cap. He’s one of only three athletes who has been there since the early days – pre-national television showings, pre-mega sponsors and pre-“professional” skateboarders – and is still riding and competing today.

On the eve of his latest milestone achievement, we caught up with Rune to see what it all means to him.

You’ve been apart of X Games since the beginning. Twenty years. That’s a pretty incredible achievement.

It’s been a battle, for a long time. Obviously I’m super stoked to still be a part of the X Games and still be one of the top competitors for medaling and that kind of thing. I’ve seen a lot of different stages of the X Games, the evolution has been pretty cool to witness first-hand, so super excited to still be apart of it.

What are the major differences from that first year (1995) to what it is now?

Basically, the biggest difference is that skateboarding now dictates what the X Games is and not the other way around. In the beginning it seemed like ESPN wanted to create this weird like media circus thing; they didn’t really have an understanding of the sports they were getting involved with, what they were all about, so now there’s a much greater understanding of what skateboarding is and they have skateboarders employed to run the events to make it what it’s supposed to be, to make it a good event. It feels like a skateboard event, not a TV event.

What are the big differences in how skateboarding has been treated on that platform over the course of that time?

In my case, them acknowledging bowl skating and the more park-oriented skating, a little bit more on edge and more in touch with what the kids are doing, that was definitely a big step for them to get involved with something like that and create the park event. Also just making the street courses the way they are. Vert hasn’t changed much, but the street skating, all the courses are amazing now. I think everyone that is in involved with the skateboard events really want to come and compete at the events. There’s nothing bad or lame about them. Everything is spot on from the way everything is built and designed to the way everything is run. Big props to X Games for making it a great event.

What has X Games done for the bigger picture of skateboarding?

It put skateboarding on the map. It put it into the hands and eyes of youths who normally would have never been exposed to skateboarding. They made it sort of a household sport, which has its positive and negative sides, but overall it’s a positive. We have more kids skating now and that’s great. If you want to keep skating underground, you can keep it just as core and underground as you and your buddies want. There’s now room for big sponsorships and all that kind of thing and a lot of kids are able to make a professional living out of skateboarding now, more so than we were 20 years ago; there’s more money at stake, bigger sponsors, bigger exposure, all that kind of thing, which I think is definitely a positive thing. Like I said, the underground side of skateboarding is always going to be alive and be right around the corner from your house, down at the local curb or at the local handrail or in the gutter where it’s supposed to be.

Favorite X Games memory or moment from your career?

That’s a tough one. Winning my first X Games gold was obviously huge for me. I think this year is probably going to be one of my proudest moments, just being able to say I’ve been apart of this for 20 years, since the very first X Games and I’ve been one of the guys who’s helped mold it into what it is today. We’ve been in countless meetings with the X Games about how we can make it better and how we can make it what it’s supposed to be. Just being involved is something that makes me super proud.

What are your thoughts on the move to Austin?

I like Austin as a city, I haven’t been able to spend a great deal of time there, but the few times I’ve been there I’ve always enjoyed being in that city, it’s a great place. We’ll see how hot is is and how the weather affects things. I obviously enjoyed it being in LA, but I think it’s good that they’re bringing it on the road again. The first eight or 10 years we were in different cities every two years, we started in Rhode Island and then it went to San Diego, then to Philly and so on. We’ve been all over with the X Games, but it just seemed like we were tied down in LA for the last eight or so years, so I’m excited to see how the new location changes things.