X Games return to Austin for second-straight year

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Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

For the second time in history, X Games has come to Austin.

For the first time ever, though, there was a winner in the Harley-Davidson Flat-Track Racing event, a new event premiering this year. The race consists of 24 motorcyclists zooming around a 3/8 long oval track with twin-engine motorcycles. 

After two heats, and the last chance qualifier, the field was down to 12 racers in the finals, each eyeing for a chance to get the gold medal.

For much of the 20-lap final, AMA Pro Flat Track GNC1 champion Jared Mees had a commanding lead and appeared to be in position to claim the gold. But his path to victory wasn't that simple.

Throughout the event, racers would wipe out while attempting to make it through the track's sharp turns at high speeds. And still other competitors would not finish because of mechanical failures suffered by their motorcycles. The latter predicament applies to Mees.

A mechanical failure in the final lap allowed Kawasaki racer Bryn Smith to pull through and become the first winner of the event.

Smith won the gold in the Harley-Davidson Flat-Track with a time of 8:20.168.

“I just hammered down that last corner and went for it,” said Smith, who was in second place for much of the event until Mees’ breakdown. “To survive here and come home with a gold medal, it’s a dream come true really.”

Overlooking the State Capitol in another opening-day event, eight riders looked to propel themselves off a vertical wall and over the incrementally increasing Step Up bar.

Ronnie Renner was back to defend his back-to-back titles and looked to claim his eighth gold medal in the event.

As the field narrowed to the final four competitors, Renner cleared the 34-foot Step Up height to eliminate the other three competitors, making him the back-to-back-to-back Step Up champion.

It’s the first time since Tommy Clowers in 2002 that an athlete has three-peated in the event.

“I would’ve never guessed, 20 years ago, when I started watching X games, that I would have my own gold medal — especially seven of them,” Renner said.

The Austin X Games will continue through this weekend at the Circuit of the Americas track.