Oakley Goes Into the Jungle for X Games Foz do Iguacu, Emerges With 10 Medals

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Much like the magnificent Iguazu Falls nearby, the four days of X Games Foz do Iguaçu were not to be missed. Between the world-class action, the passionate crowds, the tropical climate, and the ear-ringing decibel levels, overall, the event was sensation-numbing in the best ways possible.

Year after year, event after event, X Games is where the action sports world watches its collective performance bar be raised and where the unexpected always tends to happen. Those traditions continued in Foz do Iguaçu, with the first Ollie 720 in Skateboard Big Air, the first seven-peat in X Games history, and Bob Burnquist’s first Lien Air Rodeo 720 en route to his third consecutive Big Air Gold, and 23rd medal overall.

“Nights like tonight are what X Games are all about: pushing the boundaries of our sport. Coming into tonight, all the eyes were on the kids, they’re all expecting the kids to go off, and to see one of the toughest tricks come out of one of the veterans was awesome,” said Burnquist, a mix of joy and relief on his face after winning in front of his countrymen. “Tonight was insane – this competition was one of the hardest ones ever. People sometimes just expect that I’ll win, but it’s so not like that, and tonight was definitely a perfect example.”

The world of X Games is one where teenage sensations are up against vets in their 30s and 40s, and one where drama, shock and awe are the norm – anyone can win. Age is only a number. Though Burnquist and Rune Glifberg are among an exclusive group of four athletes who’ve been competing at the X Games since its inception in 1995, they’re also among the most feared and respected competitors in their respective events.

In Brazil, Glifberg was looking as motivated and smooth in Park as he has in years. His airs may have lacked the amplitude of the Pedro Barros’ of the world (of which there’s no other), but there’s no substituting for style – which the Danish skater has in spades. Glifberg was ending his runs with gritted teeth and a clenched fist, showing that despite his years, he remains determined as ever to compete and perform. He ended up winning Silver.

“I wasn’t super confident going into today; I didn’t how the judges were going to like my runs and I was definitely worried about fatigue with all the skating we’ve been doing all week. I wasn’t expecting to beat Pedro, so with the way everything worked out, to win the Silver, it was actually about as good as it can get,” said Glifberg, who won his 12th X Games medal. “It was a great course and the crowd was amazing. I’ve been traveling down here for many years since the ’90s, and its always the same down here – the crowd is so passionate and so loud. They love it.”

Foz do Iguacu lies on the border between Brazil and Argentina and Paraguay, and is primarily a tourist destination because of Iguazu Falls, which trump Niagara Falls in size and beauty. And though the X Games venue was surrounded by some of the densest jungle in Brazil, tens of thousands poured into the venue on a daily basis for an opportunity to witness first-hand the performances of many of the biggest names in action sports. Athletes had to have security escorts in order to make it to their events on time because otherwise they would be consumed for hours by the throngs of fans and admirers.

“It’s been pretty next level. The fans are absolutely amazing,” said Ryan Sheckler, who’d just finished a two-hour signing with a line that never seemed to end. “I can’t believe how many people are here, because we’re seriously in the middle of nowhere. The fans that are showing up, they are die-hard action sports fans and it’s rad.”

The craze around Sheckler wasn’t exclusive. Almost every athlete, whether a medalist or early eliminatee, were treated like rockstars – facing a sea of screaming and sometimes crying fans.

“Dude, that was crazy. I’ve never had so many people excited to see me. It seriously took me 45 minutes to walk 100 yards,” said Mike “Hucker” Clark, who was competing in his first X Games. “I love it. I remember how psyched I would get when I was a kid and I’d see the big-name BMX guys; it’d make my year. I’m psyched to create that same experience for all these fans down here.”

In a country hungry for all things sports – a hunger that will be tended to in the coming years, as the World Cup (2014) and Summer Olympics (2016) will soon arrive in the country – every sport faced massive, raucous crowds. When Ronnie Renner won Silver in Moto X Step Up, the stands were shaking as he went up for his final attempt at 31 feet. When Dennis Enarson hit the bottom of the bowl in BMX Park, the entire stadium fell silent, only to erupt minutes later when he walked off by his own power. He suffered a broken wrist that will keep him from competing at Barcelona, but he still had the points to win the Bronze Medal despite half as many runs as the other competitors in the jam session final.

During the final of Rallycross the announcers had to request the crowd calm down to protect the structural integrity of the bleachers – they were getting that wild. The same went for the Enduro X finals, where riders were navigating rocks, logs, water, sand and more. The women’s podium was a clean Oakley sweep, with X rookie Laia Sanz winning Gold, the dominant Maria Forsberg settling for Silver and Tarah Gieger taking Bronze.

While much of the X Games venue looked like a venue anywhere in the world, it was the Vert location that made you take a moment to stop and admire. When Coco Zurita was launching a massive double tailwhip in the final of BMX Vert, the late-afternoon light, mixed with the fog rising from the falls in the background presented a serene setting like nothing sports has ever seen. The always-stylish Zurita won Silver, his best-ever placing at X Games.

The four days of competition in Foz were four that these athletes and fans will certainly always remember. The setting, the energy, the action, the memories – it’s what Global X Games is all about.