Return of the King (of carnage)
ASPEN -You know this already, even if you don’t remember him. Brian Deegan, 29, is the reigning X Games king of carnage.Think back – he’s the smash hit from the 2004 ESPN Winter X Games at Buttermilk, that Moto X dude who tried an off-axis backflip, or “360,” over the 90-foot jump. He had to bail. He wasn’t going to make it. Then he hit the ground, an anvil strike on hardpack snow, and medics swarmed. He broke his femur and both wrists.A year later, the Nebraska native is alive and well, and backflipping-out. Brusque and plain-spoken, Deegan spoke about the accident. Among other things, he’s predicting a victory instead of a hospital stay in Winter X Nine, on Sunday during the Moto X best trick finals.Reader discretion is advised.Question: Take us through your 2004 Winter X Games.Brian Deegan: Basically, I was coming off a win in Summer X. I won the big air, got third in freestyle, pulled the first 360 ever. And then I just carried the momentum into Winter X. It was, like, you know what, I’m gonna show up and pretty much smoke everyone, pull a 360 and win again.And I showed up and the lips were built all wrong on the jumps. The lips were like 16 feet high and we’re used to hitting them at 9. And it was just kind of too late to change anything, and the pressure was on and everyone kind of just expected me to do a 360.Q: You were the first guy to pull a 360?BD: Yes.Q: How many times had you done it?BD: Oh man, only at X Games. It’s one of those tricks you don’t really practice, you just do in your foam pit a bunch. It’s one of those tricks I did in my foam pit about 100 times, and (when) you go to the dirt, it’s a whole different ballgame.Q: So how is it different on snow?BD: There are a lot of things that people don’t know: Your bike is a lot slower up there because of altitude. And you’re running on ice and spikes, and the tires are real heavy with the spikes, which makes it hard to rotate. And then the weather’s so damn cold it makes it hard to be flexible and everything’s real brittle. It’s just gnarly. And then they want to have the event at night this year, which to me just totally isn’t that safe, doesn’t make sense for me – because now it’s going to be really, really cold.Q: OK, do you remember the day of the accident?BD: They had a 45, a 75 and a 90 (jumps, in feet), and all the lips were just way too tall. The 75 was so kicked up, so steep, that you couldn’t even jump it straight. The 90 was the only one really jumpable. So I figured I’ll just try it over the 90. And I shouldn’t have because it was just way too mellow of a lip. And it was way too tall. It didn’t give me enough pop.Q: Do you remember when you hit the jump, when you knew you were in trouble?BD: Bottom line, I knew before I hit it that it was a really risky move. I just knew it was all wrong about halfway through, when my bike was going to come on top of me and I was going to land going backwards. My natural reaction was just to get to my hands and feet, so I jumped off. And then I pretty much missed the landing – landed out on flats- from about four stories up, higher than the ski lift.Q: Were you conscious for the whole experience, the crash, the hospital?BD: Totally. I never hit my head. I landed and just was like in extreme pain. I told the medics, “I broke my leg and both wrists. Get me an ambulance as fast as you can and get me morphine right now.” And that was it. I was pretty much screaming.Q: How was the rehab process?BD: It was tough. Luckily I had my family behind me. And it was tough for everyone. I had to sit home and watch TV and I went to therapy nonstop, which was hard. I had to give myself shots at home to thin my blood and make sure I didn’t get blood clots and have a heart attack.Q: Are things back to normal now?BD: I’d say I’m pretty much 100 percent. I still have a limp and I still have a lot of pain in my leg. But if I’m not riding, I’m pretty much not happy, so, you know, my main goal is just to be riding.Q: Do you know what the medical bills were from last year?BD: It came to about 100 grand, but I had health insurance. I’m smart enough to know that what I do for a living is really dangerous, so I have good medical.Q: Mike Metzger’s been to X Games before, but he’s not on the list this year.BD: I’m not sure if he’s coming. He just came off a gnarly crash in Europe. He backflipped and crashed and ripped, ah, his, one of his balls off.Q: Seriously?BD: Yeah. People don’t know how gnarly our sport is. They just see us land stuff and it looks easy, but it’s not. I think he’s riding again. But I don’t know if he’s coming to Winter X or not.
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When Basalt High School seniors celebrate their graduation in May, they may not be the only stars of the show.