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'Simply having the guts to do a trick can make the difference'

THE world's best action sports stars from more than 30 countries will converge on Shanghai for the KIA X-Games Asia starting tomorrow.

Almost 200 athletes will compete for more than US$130,000 in prize money in the four-day event combining skateboarding, aggressive in-line skating, BMX, sport climbing and Moto X motorcross.

In 2008, more than 52,000 spectators attended the event, up 55 percent from the previous year, and this year organizers are expecting bumper crowds at Jiangwan Stadium in Yangpu District.

It is the third time the games have been held in China and televised live on ESPN Star Sports network across China as well as on SMG's Dragon TV and G Sports.

American skateboarder Andy McDonald has competed at two previous X-Games in Shanghai.

He has more X-Games medals than any other skater and during his 23-year career performed for then US President Bill Clinton and also set a world record for the longest distance jump on a skateboard. This effort created a new discipline in the X-Games called "Big Air."

A veteran of the sport, McDonald says the games have helped grow skateboarding in China.

"I had been to Shanghai twice before this trip. I love it," he says. "It's very fast-paced and exciting. People are friendly and I've always enjoyed the enthusiasm of the crowds here. China is defiantly has a growing fan base for skateboarding."

But skateboarding, like the other action sports featured at the games, is not for the faint hearted.

McDonald has suffered an array of injuries trying to perfect certain difficult tricks and his list of mishaps is common in the X-Games athletes who are used to pushing the limits of their sports.

"I have had broken ribs, a broken ankle and a broken knee cap," he says listing his injuries. "Two knee surgeries and an ankle rebuild, other than that, just lots of bumps and bruises over the past 23 years."

The world record breaker says at the elite level courage to push one's limits is what separates the best athletes.

"Courage often times is the biggest part. Simply having the guts to commit to a trick can be the difference," he says. "Experience helps a lot as well. These days I pretty much know what I'm capable of on my skateboard. It is fun to keep pushing those limits, though, cause I often surprise myself."

Skateboarding, aggressive in-line and BMX freestyle will feature both street and vert competitions.

The skateboarding and aggressive in-line street events will be held on a specifically designed course that will highlight the skills of the most technical riders and closely mimic the street environment.

Skateboarders, in-line and BMX will also compete in the "Vert" competition held on a big vertical ramp.

Aggressive in-line has progressed rapidly as a sport since the 1990s and as skates have become more technologically advanced, it has allowed skaters to perform more tricks. Today, in-line skating is the fifth largest participatory sport in the US.

Street or park BMX evolved from BMX racers jumping curbs on the sides of driveways and "bunny hopping" onto the top of park benches in the 1970s.

The modern version of the sport involves a course a rider can interpret to perform moves that mimic the types of tricks performed during a street ride in an urban setting.

Speed climbing requiring athletes to scale a climbing wall and hit a buzzer at the top faster than their opponents. It is one of the most physically demanding of the extreme sports - both men and women compete.

Probably the most spectacular event is the Moto X Big Air competition. Introduced last year to the games, it involves a rider jumping a motorcross motorbike from a dirt ramp. Riders get three jumps to perform a variety of tricks and it is common for riders to cover more than 18 meters in a single jump.

As well as the competition there will also be musicians, dancers and artists entertaining the crowd, including boy band Go Go Club that will perform the Chinese theme song "Rise Up."

KIA X-Games Asia

Date: April 30-May 3

Venue: Jiangwan Stadium, 245 Songhu Rd, Yangpu District

Tickets: 120 yuan per day for adults, 50 yuan for students, 240 yuan for family package (two adults, one student)

Tel: 962-388, 400-666-6699


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