The X Games arrive in Minneapolis

Ryan Sheckler bails on a trick.
Ryan Sheckler flies through the air before bailing on a trick during a practice session before the start of the X Games inside of U.S. Bank Stadium on Wednesday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Minneapolis' first-ever summer X Games get underway Thursday, drawing in action-sports athletes from around the world for the annual event.

The ESPN-produced competition got its start in 1995. Today, the summer games revolve around three sports: BMX, skateboarding and motocross — or Moto X, in X Games lingo.

Heavy machinery and dirt fill U.S. Bank Stadium.
Heavy machinery roams the dirt filled floor of U.S. Bank stadium four days before the kickoff of the X Games.
Evan Frost | MPR News

BMX has kept him coming back to the X Games for years, even though it's risky. He's battling an injury this year.

"The lure of the X Games is so big that you make yourself ride but you know you're kind of hanging on by a thread," he said. "But isn't that what the X Games is about? It's about riding on the edge knowing that at any moment everything can come crashing down."

The events are truly extreme — the stadium's biggest structure is an 82-foot-tall mega ramp that vaults athletes across a gap before they land and coast onto another quarter-pipe ramp on the other side.

Beaver Fleming, a 23-year-old skateboarder, explained one of his runs down the mega ramp:

"I was riding on the mega ramp and did a back flip varial finger flip over the gap and then went for a 540 on the quarter pipe and bailed out to my knees 'cause that was the first one I've sent so I was just kind of feeling it out."

The Mega Ramp towers over the X Games park,
Construction workers put the final touches on the 82-foot-tall mega ramp.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Need a translation? Fleming was saying he did a back flip where he takes the board out from under his feet and flips it around. Then he went for a 540-degree spin on the quarter pipe.

One factor that's different for the Minneapolis X Games: athletes don't need to contend with the wind when they're flying into the air.

That's a big advantage for some athletes.

"In action sports as well the thing that we always battle with mainly is the wind. So for us to be indoors this year, it's amazing," said Australian Moto X athlete Jackson Strong. "And there's not many stadiums throughout the entire world that can facilitate what's happening inside here."

The U.S. Bank Stadium floor is covered with different courses. There's a concrete bowl that looks like an empty swimming pool. There are massive dirt piles sculpted into courses for BMX and motorcycle events.

A BMX bike leans on a quarter pipe.
A BMX bike sits leans on a quarter pipe as constructions workers smooth concrete in preparation for the X Games.
Evan Frost | MPR News

"All the courses take 12 days or so to get done," said X Games vice president Tim Reed. "[There's a] variety of materials: dirt, concrete, wood. Plenty of work going on. And then the show's four days, and then we usually take about a week or so to clean it up and wrap it out."

One highlight is a women's BMX park competition. This year's event is only a demo to see if there's interest in making it a proper event for future games.

Hannah Roberts, a 15-year-old BMX rider, hopes the event catches on.

"There wasn't a lot of women that competed when X Games first started or even rode," she said. "Our class is a lot smaller than the guys' so it's hard to get girls' class."

X Games events run all weekend long.

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